NINE:

 

It was late when Joey finally got off the phone with the sound tech that was going to help him with his father's album. He'd been on the phone when he tucked Brianna in and checked to make sure that Colton was in bed before he plopped down on the couch again, so when the conversation was done he decided to go tuck them in again since he'd been distracted the first time.

He checked the alarm system then made his way upstairs pushing himself up the steps even though part of him wanted to sleep on the couch again just so he wouldn't have to deal with Kelly again. She'd been tough on him that night, only softening for those moments at the park earlier in the afternoon before resuming her cold attitude towards him while she made dinner.

They'd sat down at the table in the backyard that night. It had been strange to sit there across the table from where Brianna was eating hotdog pieces and macaroni and cheese with her fingers. He was used to meals on the go, or at least meals in a room with the hundred or so other people working on the tour. This was all too family-like for him and as much as he hated to admit it he thought that Kelly might be right about the whole commitment issue.

Kelly seemed to be too talkative though during dinner, quizzing Colton on his favorite things and what schooling he'd had. It was nice to have some kind of background noise, but the fact that he wasn't involved made it even harder for him to keep his mind on the here and now. Through the whole meal he kept wondering about what the other guys were doing or what was going on outside of the boundaries of his property. He never used to think like that, he'd been good at cutting off the outside world to spend time with them so he was extremely quiet while they ate.

Being sure to be quiet Joey stepped into Brianna's room and found her asleep on her tummy with her butt stuck up in the air. He looked at his daughter for a moment and held his breath and listened to her breath. Maybe someone would think it was strange, but it was the best sound, that slight snoring sound. It could only be rivaled by her voice saying his name. When he thought that he'd gotten a little carried away with his watching her, he covered her with the blanket and kissed her chubby cheek and left the room.

Next door, Colton's room still hadn't been decorated, but he'd found a new roommate. Joey was surprised to see Nikita up on the bed with Colton, comfortably asleep in the not so child-like room. They'd stayed at home other than going to the park that day rather than going out to shop, partially because he was tired from traveling and because he hadn't wanted to share his son just yet. He thought he'd ask Kelly to take Colton to the store the next day and get more things for the room. He wanted him to feel at home and needed him to be a part of everything there so that he wouldn't get worried about his place in their lives.

When he moved onto the master bedroom he found Kelly asleep on her side facing the middle of the bed. She had the pillow pressed to her face and although she should have looked relaxed, even in her sleep she looked upset. He watched her for a minute trying to figure out what he'd be able to do to make things better before he went and took a quick shower then pulled on a pair of boxers and slid into bed with her.

When he settled himself into bed he was turned on his side watching her. The curly hair that she'd had up in a ponytail all day now lay out across the pillows framing her face and falling over her forehead in a few places. He lifted a few strands out of the way then touched her cheek and she smiled and opened her eyes a little and looked at him.

"I love you Joe. I know that I've been bitchy--" She paused and wiped her face a little, moving more hair out of the way as she went on with her words, "I've been short tempered with you the last day or so, but you know that I love you right?"

"I know Kelly," he said with a thick voice. He still could remember the first time he'd told her that he loved her. It had been two months after he and Yvonne had broken up. He'd been at her house for a rare day off and she'd kissed him and he'd blurted it out without thinking about it. Before it had been a word he'd never say, but then and now it was something that just seemed to be expected between each other, "I know."

He thought she was done. She closed her eyes and he was about to pull her close when she opened her eyes. "You scared me though," she said with a soft voice. Even in the low light in the room he could clearly see the tears that formed in her eyes and slipped down her cheeks. "I thought I lost you."

"Lost me?" he asked and reached and wiped away the tears on her cheeks. "I'm right here."

"I thought that I lost what we had. You never lied to me before and I thought that I could trust you."

"You can trust me Kelly," he said with a shaky voice, "I know that this has set us back, but let me at least have another chance." He was scared to death that he'd ruined everything before and now she was confirming his worst thoughts. She had lost faith in him and in faith in their relationship. He never wanted that to happen, but it had.

"Joe--" She put a hand out again to push him back when he started to move towards her again.

Her bare hand on his chest, near his heart made his whole body react. He didn't know if he could actually describe it as a tingle, but it seemed as if every other sense in his body was turned off and all that he could feel and see was their connection.

"I'm not sure what this means for us. I just need some time to figure things out."

"Figure out what?" he said angrily. He was tired of being punished for something that had happened years ago, something that it was clear that he couldn't do anything about. "I'm in love with you. You're in love with me and your my--"

"Your what?" she said and pushed herself up, "What am I to you? Your wife? Is that what you were going to say?" She flipped on the light next to the bed. "Look at my fingers Joe. There isn't a ring on there. You know some women would like the freedom that I have with you, but for me it's not what I want. I want you, only you, but you're not ready to give that and now with Colton and this whole situation, I'm beginning to think that you never were."

"Kelly calm down," he said, "Please." He didn't fight the tears that came out with his plead to her. "Please don't give up on me. You're the only one who knows me anymore."

"I don't know you Joe. I knew you, but not anymore. All I know now for sure about you is that you love your daughter. That's the one constant thing through this and if that's enough to satisfy you then it's enough to satisfy me."

"What are you talking about?" He didn't like what she was saying. It was as if she was saying that he didn't love her, that all the time that they'd spent together meant nothing. He couldn't believe that one moment, a few words that he'd changed her whole opinion of him. He hadn't expected her to throw a party about things, but didn't think that the issues that had come up would wipe out all their history. "What are you getting at?"

"I'm thinking of moving out," she said, "Or at least I was, but for the moment I think that I should move to the guestroom. At least then we won't get confused about what we are to each other." She grabbed up her pillow and left him there in the bed alone.

It wasn't a smack in the face, but he felt the abrupt sting that he was left with. He could hear her in the far corner of the top floor of the house. She went to check on the kids then went and shut herself in the other open room on the floor. He didn't really hear her get into bed, but he could imagine it and even though they were rooms apart he lay awake for almost two hours staring at the empty mattress across from him.

He found it hard to sleep after that so he finally just pulled out a book and started to read.


Kelly woke up the next morning to find Joey gone already to the studio. She didn't remember having the baby monitor in her room, but Joey must have put it in there for her. His only other clue to where he had been headed was a note that he left on the refrigerator. It was addressed to Colton and Brianna, but not her, a clear sign that things were definitely not back in order just yet. She knew that it her that was making things troubled, but it seemed finally that Joey was going to push back against her this time instead of having her push against him.

By ten o'clock Brianna and Colton had eaten breakfast, had watched an hour of Sesame Street and were now playing with Nikita, while watching the Lion King. Kelly set up the baby monitor so she could hear them then took the extension with her upstairs. She took a few deep breaths then put herself to work cleaning out her closet.

Twenty minutes later she was done moving her things, but was ready for a swim. She went back downstairs and found a very guilty looking Colton sitting on the couch with Brianna next to him. She noticed the lap blanket that had been under the coffee table now lying across the floor.

"I'm sorry," Colton said and began to cry. He seemed nervous and jumpy, pulling his feet onto the couch and almost curling up into a ball. "I didn't mean it."

"Didn't mean what?" Kelly walked into the room and picked up the juice sippy cups. She thought if she acted normal that the reason for him being so nervous. She then grabbed for the blanket to pick it up off the floor.

"NO!" Colton said and got up and went and sat down on the blanket. He practically sprawled across the blanket so that she couldn't pull it up as tears began to flow down his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he began to mumble, "I didn't mean to."

As Nikita started to attack them both with barks and nips at them Kelly pulled Colton up and moved him to sit on the couch. Brianna seemed confused by everything and sat and stared at them. "Colton, honey don't cry. Just tell me what happened," she reached and he backed away from her.

"I'm sorry," he said, "I didn't mean it."

Kelly looked at Brianna. "What happened jelly bean?"

"Gape go bam," Brianna said holding her hands out. Her little mouth formed into an O shape and she stared at her with wide eyes.

Kelly looked over at the floor. "Colton," Kelly took a breath and calmed her voice. She didn't want to scare him or have him feeling that he was in trouble. "Did you spill your juice?" Colton stared at her with wide eyes. When she reached for him again he looked at her with scared eyes and she knew something was really strange about the way he was acting. "Colton when you were at your mommy's did you get yelled at when you did something like this?"

He seemed really scared, but he finally nodded.

"Kiddo it's ok. In our house you won't get in trouble as long as you tell the truth ok?," she said, "The rug might have a spot, but it's nothing to get so upset about. Next time tell me so I can get the cleaner for it ok?"

He nodded again.

"Why don't we get this cleaned up then go and see if Nana is home?"

"Nana!" Brianna screeched.

"Yes baby, Nana," she said. She pushed herself up and looked down and Colton. "Grab that blanket and we'll wash it then we'll get the carpet cleaner stuff and we'll clean up then go see Nana."

Brianna followed them to the laundry room and helped put the blanket in the washing machine before they returned to the living room to wash the grape spot off the carpet. Nikita had started to lick the carpet, but Kelly put him outside as she got the stain out.

Ten minutes later the carpet was wet, but clean. "Look good."

"Nana!" Brianna screeched.

It took a minute to close up the house and get Brianna in her car seat, but soon they were on their way across town to see Joey's mother. She hadn't called over there, but she figured that if Phyllis wasn't home that she'd take the kids with her to get ice cream then head back to the house.

When they got to the Fatone's home Kelly took Brianna out of her seat and held Colton's hand as they made their way to the house. She knew that Joe Senior would be in the studio with Joey all day working on the Not So Boy Band album, but that Joey's mother would love to see the kids. She hadn't been over in a few days and Colton hadn't met her yet so she knew that no matter what was going on, they'd be welcome there.

"Colton knock on the door for me kiddo," Kelly said and watched him open the screen door and knock on the door.

Moments later Phyllis came to the door and opened it. "Jelly Bean!" she said loudly and pulled Brianna into her arms.

"Hey Phyllis," Kelly said, "I know I didn't call, but the kids and I were hanging out in the house and thought we'd visit you."

"So you're Colton," Phyllis said with a smile, "You're a big guy already. I bet you'll drink twice as much juice and eat twice as many cookies as your sister."

"Juice go bam," Brianna said with a giggle.

"I can have cookies?" Colton said looking up at Kelly. He still held onto her hand and seemed scared to be there.

"If Nana has them and wants to let you have some its ok," Kelly said.

"I get cookies even though I spilled the juice?"

"It's not a reward for spilling your juice, but just because you spilled your juice doesn't mean that Nana won't give you cookies."

Phyllis watched her. "What is that all about?"

"We had a little accident over at the house with some spilled juice. He got scared because he thought he was really in trouble, but it happens all the time."

"Well come on in and we'll get you guys some cookies and juice."

Kelly sighed a sigh of relief as they went into the house. She set her purse down by the door and helped Colton off with his shoes and left her flip flops by the room and went into the living room.

 

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