Monday, February 13, 2017

10. No BS

Returning from the bathroom, Tony found Lilah curled on her side, hair tousled across the pillow.  Her features were utterly relaxed as she lay there with her eyes closed, and he felt much the same way as he slid under the covers with her. 

“You’re back,” he marveled, heart filled to overflowing as he gathered her close.  “Jesus, I missed you.”

Her mouth lifted into a lazy smile, but she didn’t bother opening her eyes.  She just placed a palm out to gently stroke his chest.  “Enjoy it while it lasts.  I don’t know when you’ll see the hair and makeup thing again.”

“I don’t give a shit about hair and makeup.  Never did.”

Now her eyes popped open, and her relaxed features went perplexed.  “Then why the hell did I just spend an entire day and an obscene amount of money on a spa?” she demanded.

“To get your swagger back.”

The look on her face clearly stated that he was nuts.  “Excuse me?”

He’d gone uncounted days without touching her at all, yet now he couldn’t stop his hands from roaming her skin to explore every swell and valley.  The dip at her waist had its own little siren song that kept him going back to trace its curve.

“You remember when I was stupid enough to let you leave Lisbon without me?”

Her mouth pulled into an ugly frown.  “I wish I could forget.”

“You’re remembering the wrong part then,” he told her softly, his hand reluctantly abandoning womanly curves to erase the frown with a gentle swipe of his thumb.  “I told you not to let anybody take away your swagger.  But you let me do it anyway.”

Lilah’s eyes drifted downward. 

“Hey.”  Tony edged her chin back up so she looked at him.  “I want you to know how sorry I am.  I should’ve realized it was gone, but didn’t.  Not until I saw you with it again.”


“Not done yet,” he shushed her.  “I’m sorry.  I’m also inexplicably grateful to have a second chance to get this right.  You, Lilah Jane Bennett Bongiovi, take my breath away when you’re like this.”

She wanted to believe that last sentence.  He knew it as well as he knew their kids’ names, but he could also see that she wasn’t going to let herself – because she couldn’t make her own sense of it.

“I’m still not seein’ how today me is any different than yesterday me, except for the length of my hair and a little eyeliner.”

“I still hate it when you play dumb,” he admonished.

“Honey, I’m not playin’.”

He gave her a sharp pinch to the ass.  “Look at me.  Eyes on mine.”

She pursed her lips with annoyance, but did as he asked. 

“Wanna know what I see?”

“You’re goin’ to an awful lot of effort to make a point, so sure.  What do you see?”

Her sassiness was kinda cute, but he didn’t laugh.  It was important to him that she understand he wasn’t being flippant or talking out his ass when telling her, “I see everything.  There’s hope, there’s annoyance, there’s a little bit of peace that wants to come out.  There’s you waiting to call bullshit on everything I’m saying.”

“I’d be disappointed if you couldn’t puzzle some of that out, considerin’ how long we’ve been together.”

“You didn’t let me finish.”

She sighed impatiently.  “You think you might get to the point then?”

Okay, so this Bluegrass wasn’t exactly the same as the one he’d first known.  Bluegrass had originally had been a little more deferential toward him since their relationship and marriage were new.  This one washed his dirty underwear and wasn’t quite as willing to hang on to his every word.

Tony was okay with that, and overlooked it in favor of something more important.

“Know what I saw yesterday and the day before and the day before that?”  He held up a hand when it appeared as though she was about to give him an argument.  “Rhetorical question.  I’m gonna tell you anyway.  I didn’t see shit.  You hid everything behind that damn wall you put up, and you completely shut the world out.  Today you shared yourself because you felt good about yourself.  That’s the point.”

“That’s only partially correct, but alright.”

“What’s not correct?”

She scooted over to put some space between them and pulled the sheet up to cover herself.  “You speak of that wall with such distaste, but you know very well why it goes up.”

Fan-freaking-tastic.  He was only trying to explain why he felt like she’d been missing like a dearly departed loved one, and now they were headed for a fight.

“Lilah, I’m not trying to start anything.  All I’m saying it that I’d rather see anger and indignation than that cold wall.  Stop shutting me out.”

She transferred her gaze from him to the artwork on the far wall.  “Stop hurtin’ me and I won’t have to.”

Well, if that didn’t cut like a knife, mostly for the fact that he had no rebuttal for it.   Guilty as charged and he knew it.  Worse than that, the potential for doing it again was hovering in the wings. 

“I have no desire to ever hurt you, and I’ll do my damnedest not to,” he promised quietly.  “But since I’m a mere man, it could still happen.  On the off chance it does, could you at least agree to talk to me about it instead of shutting down?  I can handle a screaming wife better than an emotionless one.”

Her eyes slid back from the nondescript décor to him, and she took a slow survey of his features.  Aqua eyes scrutinized his, meticulously searching for… something. 

Tony felt like he was on trial, but in this case he had nothing to hide, so he didn’t look away.  He freely allowed her to do that thing he’d always mentally classified as looking into his soul.

Whatever she found must have satisfied her, because she dipped her chin in assent.  “I’ll try.”

What else could he ask for?

“C’mere,” he invited her scoot into the circle of his arms.  As his arms closed around her, Tony slid a leg between hers and kicked his foot back so that it hooked around her ankle, effectively knotting them together. 

Comfortable and more content than he’d been in a very long time, Tony would’ve been happy to lie there in silence and fall asleep with her tucked close.  He could tell, however, from the rigid set of her spine that Lilah’s mind was stewing over something and wasn’t going to allow her the same contentment.

“What’s going on in there?” he murmured, with a slight tap to the back of her head. 

“Mm.  Lots.”

It didn’t take a mind reader to know that.  “You gonna tell me, or what?”

“Nothin’ of much importance.”  An open palm skimmed languidly over the plane of his chest.  “Just wonderin’ why it’s so difficult for us to talk anymore.  Used to be that you spoke your mind and I spoke my mind.  Any differences, we sorted ‘em out and moved on.”

That’s exactly how it used to be, and they’d never had to wonder and make unfounded assumptions about the other.  It was a lot like the carefree days of his youth. 

She craned her neck to look at him.  “Tell me again why we quit doin’ that?”

“You said I stopped listening to you,” he reminded her.  “For my part, I think there weren’t enough hours in the day the first couple of years with the kids. Then when there was more time, it didn’t feel natural anymore.  It was an effort that didn’t always end well.”

“Hm.”  She nestled her head into the crook of his shoulder.  “Seems like we oughta get back to it.  The original ‘no bullshit’ clause in our contract.”

“Probably be a good idea.”

She nodded against him, and finally relaxed in his embrace.  “G’night, Jersey.”

“Night, Bluegrass.”


Tony was comfortable.  He was relaxed.  He was… cold.

The blankets were thick enough, but he still had a chill that wouldn’t go away.  Eyes still closed, Tony scooted over in search of Lilah, who radiated heat like a camp stove in bed.  Not finding her on the first try, he scooted again.  And again.  Then he stuck out an exploratory hand.

Where the fuck is she this time? 


In a rerun of yesterday’s same scene, there was no answer.

They’d spent the better part of the night in each other’s arms.  She’d been there when he got up to pee at five o’clock.  It was now…

He rolled over to squint at the clock. 

It was now seven and his wife was MIA, so Tony grabbed his glasses and his phone.  There was a text from Jon, but he swiped it away to find out the secret location of his wife.

[8:11 AM]TONY:  Where the hell are you? 

He dropped the phone back on the bedside table and went to the bathroom while waiting for her reply.  What he came back to was:

[8:12 AM]LILAH: I’ll be up soon.

Why couldn’t she ever give him a response that addressed what he’d asked?

[8:13 AM]TONY: Didn’t answer my question.

[8:14 AM]LILAH:  You’d think getting laid would have given you a better disposition this morning.

Tony grudgingly snickered, his irritation tamed by her reply.  Amazing how she seemed funny today, when last week he would’ve thought her a bitch for that comment.  In truth, it was just Lilah, and he was pleased to find out that he could still like her.

[8:16 AM]TONY: But my dick didn’t get sucked.  Hurry up and I’ll let you take care of that.

[8:18 AM]LILAH:  I feel so privileged. :P

He just smirked and let that one pass, going back instead to check the message from his brother. 

[7:00 AM]JON: Been thinking about you the last couple days.  Sent you an email with one of the new songs.  Thought you two might appreciate it.

That was unexpected.  Tony usually got a copy of the album a day or two before release, but he couldn’t remember Jon ever sending him a specific track.  It made him curious about the song, but since his brother had said “you two”, Tony chose to wait for Lilah before seeking out his email.

[8:23 AM]TONY:  Things are getting better.  We’ll give it a listen.  Thx.

There was no point in waiting for a reply, because chances were that Jon wouldn’t send one.  He didn’t give a shit about text etiquette and neither did Tony, so he dropped his phone on the nightstand and headed for the shower. 

He had just put shampoo in his hair when Lilah stuck her head in the bathroom.  “I’m back.  I brought you coffee.”

“Perfect timing!” he hollered.  “I just washed my dick.  You wanna suck it now or when I get out?”

“I’m good out here!”

He grinned, ducking his head under the spray to rinse.  Another two minutes and he was reaching for a towel. 

“Where were you?” he called out to Lilah as ran the towel over his chest. 

She materialized in the bathroom door, holding a familiar paper cup.  “Uh, Starbucks?”

He didn’t have his glasses on, but could tell that she’d lived up to her comment from last night about the hair and makeup.  She was wearing contacts, but no makeup and a blingy Green Bay Packers cap sat atop her ponytail.  The yellow t-shirt she wore at least fit her curves, as did the same jeans from last night.  He couldn’t be sure, but he thought that might be the same shirt she was wearing the night he met her in Dublin. 

Like he’d told her last night, it really made no difference.  As long as she wasn’t wearing leggings and was feeling good about herself, he didn’t care.

“I thought maybe you’d decided to throw more money away in the slots,” he teased, tossing the towel aside and reaching for his clothes. 

He may not have twenty-twenty vision without his glasses, but he saw well enough to spot the smirk that creased her mouth.  It told him everything he needed to know before she confessed, “Maybe just a couple dollars.”

He zipped up his jeans with a rueful shake of his head and reached for his favorite Harley t-shirt.  “Just make sure you keep enough money to get us home, would ya?”

“Mm.”  Lilah lounged against the doorframe, crossing one arm over her waist while thoughtfully sipping coffee.  “Do you have a feel for how much that might be?”

After jerking the shirt on, Tony reached for his glasses.  He needed visual confirmation that she was yanking his chain, and her sparkling eyes gave him exactly what he’d been looking for.

“You’re so full of shit,” he chastised her.

“Perhaps.”  She grinned like the Cheshire cat.  “I put in a twenty and won fifty.”

“Seriously?”  Tony bent his head for a kiss as he squeezed by her in the doorway.  “I’m amazed.  That means you’re only down, what?  Half of the hundred you blew last night?”

“Okay, first of all, hush.  That was last night and this is today.  Clean slate and all that,” she informed him, trailing along to the bedroom.  “Besides, you know you’re impressed with my gamblin’ prowess, and you should be.  I’m so good at it, I think I may play slot machines for a livin’.”

“That will be the world’s shortest career,” he snorted, reaching for the coffee she’d left on the nightstand next to his phone.  “Oh, hey.  Jon sent one of the new songs for us to listen to.”

She hitched one eyebrow up with suspicion.  “Does it involve instructions for killin’ your wife?  Because your brother gave up any pretense of likin’ me a long while ago.”

Guilt stabbed at Tony.  That was his fault.  Him and his “venting”.  During the early years of his marriage, Jon and Lilah had actually found some comfortable footing with one another.  Then Lucas was born and yadda, yadda, yadda.  Hell in a handbasket and all that.

Even so, he didn’t feel right letting his brother hang. 

“That’s crap.  Before we left, he told me he hoped things worked out for us.”

“Uh, I thought we were invokin’ the ‘no bullshit’ thing?”  

She clearly assumed Tony was either making it up or playing peacemaker, so he looked her dead in the eye and pledged, “No bullshit.”

“Hm.  Maybe I’ll listen to his song then.”

Seating himself on the bed, he patted the spot next to him.  “Stop being a bitch and sit down here with me.”

She blew him a half-hearted raspberry, but complied without any more fuss than that.  “Have you heard it yet?”

“Nope.  All I know is that he said he’d been thinking about us and thought we’d appreciate this.”

Locating his email app, he scrolled until he found what he was looking for.  A quick tap had it open and Tony saw that, in typical Jon fashion, there were no introductory words.  It was literally nothing more than the song attachment. 

Another tap initiated the music player, and he adjusted the volume accordingly. 

I see you thinking twice
Wish I could read your mind
Move up or out of line
Too late for praying
I know we might lose our breath
We might be scared to death
This chance is like a step
Just got to take it

Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh
Countdown to here we go oh oh oh oh oh oh

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
Time flies by, don't close your eyes
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain't a merry go round

It's a roller coaster
It's a roller coaster

Can't lie and won't pretend
I know what's round the bend
Too late to start again
Won't take it slower
Let's slip right off these tracks
We'll fly or we might crash
Don't look down, don't look back
Cause it ain't over

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
Time flies by, don't close your eyes
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain't a merry go round

It's a roller coaster
It's a roller coaster

Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh
Countdown to here we go oh oh oh oh oh oh

Hold on tight, slide a little closer
Up so high stars are on our shoulders
It's a roller coaster
Kiss by kiss love is like a thrill ride
What goes up might take us upside down
Life ain't a merry go round

It's a roller coaster
It's a roller coaster
Roller coaster
It's a roller coaster

The last chorus was still playing when he fixed Lilah with a reproving look.  “Still think he hates you?”

“Doesn’t matter if he does or if he doesn’t,” she deflected, unknowingly echoing Jon’s very words.  “You’re the only Bongiovi brother whose opinion ever mattered to me.  I like the song, though.”

“Get the feeling he’s telling us to get our shit together?”

She shook her head in disbelief.  “As strange as that seems, maybe.”

It was strange and it wasn’t.  Jon didn’t like it when his family wasn’t settled.  For that matter, neither did Tony.

“Hey.”  He tossed his phone to the side and turned toward her, leaning on one arm to ask a question that he was pretty sure he already knew the answer to.  “Does my opinion still matter?”

“You know it does or I wouldn’t be here.”

“Well, you know,” he confided conspiratorially.  “There is one way to ensure my opinion is a good one.”

“Let me guess.  It involves your clean dick?”

Tony’s grin went a mile wide, her laughter making him happy. 

“Not only are you a pretty face, you’re pretty damn smart, too…”


  1. Ah caught up, I love it and can't wait to see where it goes. Thank you for bringing Lilah and Tony back.

  2. Carol, I'm so glad you're slowly starting to "fix" these two - they were so miserable that I was miserable, too!