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That Made Me Stonger

“Aunt Stevie!” I hear Jessica call from the kitchen. “Telephone!”

“Who is it? Tell them I’m busy!” I call back. I’m smack dab in the middle of running on the treadmill. Whoever it was is just gonna have to wait.

“Ok, they said they’d call back!”

“Thank you Jess!”

I keep running and then do a five-minute cool down before I stretch. This is what makes me feel good. I wanna still be in this kind of shape, or better, when I’m old and grey. Well, I am old and grey, but I mean really old and really grey.

Finally I go back upstairs to the kitchen. I get a glass of ice water. Jessica is in the living room watching cartoons. I push my bangs up out of my face, rearranging my headband.

“Hey, Jess, who called?” I lean against the doorframe.

“Some guy, I don’t know.”

“You didn’t take a number?”

“He said he’d call back.”

“He didn’t have a name?”

“He did…” she looked up fro m the TV.


“Don or Tom or Ron or John or something.”

“Ok, that’s helpful. It wasn’t Lindsey, right?”

“No. Why do you always ask that?”

“Because I don’t want to talk to him.”

“Ok.” She rolled her eyes.

So, I do always ask if it’s Lindsey, I don’t want to talk to him, but I do want to know if he were to call. It’s not like he has, but still.

I go upstairs to my room to shower and change. Chris and Lori went to Payson for the day, so I’m here with little Miss Jessica James.

I mindlessly shower, thinking about life. I want to do a new album, but I haven’t got a contract and after the last albums, which haven’t done anything, who knows if I’ll be able to get one.

“Ok, so Street Angel flopped.” I say to myself “Oh well, it had good songs on it. Timespace did ok.”

“But that’s compilation material.” I argue with myself.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“I guess I could wait for the inevitable Mac return.”

“No, I am NOT going to just be that chick in Fleetwood Mac.”

“You could at least get some demos down then.”

“I don’t have any finished songs.”

“So unless you work on them, they aren’t going to finish themselves.”

“They all just sound like another Dreams.”

“So rewrite Dreams.”


“At least write them down, you could always call up Lindsey to work on them.”

“Shut up! I am not calling Lindsey and asking for help.”

“So do it yourself then.”

I finish washing my hair and wrap a towel around it then another around myself. I dry off and choose something easy to wear. Black stretch pants and a dark purple top. I’m not planning on going anywhere anyway. I pull my hair into a ponytail and then twist it into a bun. I don’t feel like make-up, so I don’t bother.

Jessica is still watching TV when I get back downstairs.

“Hey,” I say, she looks up. “Oh, hi.”

“What are ya watchin’?”


“Can I watch too?”


“Ok.” I sit down next to her on the floor and watch the show until the phone rings. “I’ll get it.” I jump up and pick it up in the kitchen.

“Hello?” I say.

“Hello, is Stevie there?” a man’s voice says, barely audible through the static.

“May I tell her who’s calling?”

The man laughs. “Cute Stevie. Don’t you know who this is?”

Dang it. “No, not right off.”

“C’mon Steves, didn’t Jessica give you the message?”

“No, she said ‘Don or Tom or Ron or John’.”

“Well, I’m one of those.”

“I could tell if there wasn’t so much static.”

“Darn cell phone.”

“Just tell me.”

“Tom.” He laughs.

“Oh! Hi, how are you?”

“Good, in town.”

“You’re in Arizona?”


“Why didn’t you phone earlier?”

“I didn’t know that I’d have time here.”

“Well I could have at least made dinner plans or something.”

“Too late, I beat you to it. Are you free tonight?”

“Uh, more or less. I’m watching Jess until Chris and Lori get home.”

“What time is that?”

“Uh, three. What time is it now?”

“Like two-thirty. Did you just get up?” he asks teasingly.

“Tom! Did not! For your information I have been up since ten.”

“And the tooth fairy came to my last show.”

“Ok, so fine, ten-thirty. I forget how well you know me.”


“I’m Pluto.” I subconsciously stick my tongue out at him.

“And I’ll bet you just stuck your tongue out at me.” He laughs.

“God, how do you do that?”

“I just do. Now, I’ll pick you up, obviously?”

“You know, I can drive!”

“Uh, oh! Clear the roads! But seriously, I know you can’t drive legally at least. Even illegally is questionable.”

“You are SO gonna get it!”

“Gonna get what?”

“My secret.” I bluff.

“Well, I’ll see you at four, three-thirty maybe?”

“Ok, when are the reservations?”

“At six, at the Ritz-Carlton.”

“Ok. I guess I’ll see you then.”


I hang up. If it’s two forty-five I don’t have a whole lot of time to get ready.

I go back upstairs and look through my clothes. I don’t want to dress-up, dress up. It’s not like we’re a couple on a date or anything, but I do want to look nice. I choose black velvet stretch pants and a flowy dark purple top. I put that on and choose matching boots for later. Then I go to check on Jessica.

“Hey Jess, are you hungry? How about I make you a snack?”

“Cookies?” Her eyes light up.

“Sure, we can make cookies.” I say, glancing at my watch. It’s only three, so I’ll have time to do my hair and make-up while they bake. Plus how do you say no to that face?

“Yay!” she jumps up and dashes into the kitchen. I follow her and help her with an apron, putting one on myself.

“Wash your hands,” I tell her as I open the freezer, looking for the tub of cookie dough that Lori keeps handy for quick cookie monster attacks.

“Jessica, did you guys already use all the dough?”

She shrugs, “Maybe.”

“Ok, I’ll keep looking.” I rummage for a few more minutes. “You must have, there isn’t any in here.”

“Can’t we make more?” She asks eagerly.

“I don’t know if I have time.”


“’Cos I made dinner plans with a friend.”

“Oh.” She says, “Please, Aunt Stevie, please?”

I calculate time in my head. Chris and Lori will be back in a half-hour, maybe Lori could take over and I’d still have half an hour to get ready.

“Ok, sure. Get the book.”

She crawls up onto the stool to get the cookbook. I get the butter and sugar out, turning around when she says, “Look! Catch me Aunt Stevie!” She jumps off the stool at me. I have to move quickly to catch her.

“Oof! Silly girl!” I hug her and set her down.

She helps with the rest of the ingredients; we start mixing and then the doorbell rings.

“That’s probably your parents.”

“Mommy! Daddy! Aunt Stevie and me are makin’ cookies!” she shouts, bounding to the door. I follow a few steps behind her.

“Is it them?” I ask her, she is looking out the window.

“No, I don’t know who it is.” She says dejectedly.

“Ok,” I go to the peep-hole and see a distorted image of Tom. I open the door.

“Howdy stranger!” he says.

“Hi Tom, come in. I wasn’t expecting you so soon.” I give him a big hug, trying not to smack him with the wooden spoon I’m holding.

“Who’s he?” Jessica asks bluntly as he shuts the door.

“Wow! Look at you! You’ve grown.” Tom says, then he squats down to her height. “Hi, I’m Tom Petty, who are you?”

“Jessica James Nicks.” She beams. “I thought you were Lindsey.”

Tom laughs, “Nope, I’m Tom.”

“Ok. Do you like cookies?”

“Sure do, why?”

“Aunt Stevie and me are makin’ em!”

He laughs, “Is this true ‘Aunt Stevie’? You dare to step foot in the kitchen, or are you trying to poison me?”

I shake my spoon at him, “Hush! You know I can cook!”

“I know, but if I can’t tease ya, where’s the fun?”

I ignore his comment, “Well, I’m not ready. I was hoping that you’d be later and then I’d be ready. Now I’ve got to get cookies in the over, my hair needs something done to it, I’ve got make-up to put on…”

“You could just go in the apron. It’s très chic.”

I giggle. “Well, maybe I will.” I turn back towards the kitchen. “C’mon Jessie, let’s get those cookies done.”

“Ok!” she runs ahead of me. So much energy.

“Come on Tom, I’m terribly sorry, I meant to be ready.”

“No, don’t be. I like cookies, I’ll eat some of them and forget all about it.”

We all get back to the kitchen and finish the cookies. It’s four.

“They should be here any moment,” I say. “Jessica, do you wanna stay here with Tom or come upstairs with me?”


“Ok. Tom, you’re good just hanging out here?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Would you get the door if Lori and Chris come home?”

“Sure, no problem.”


Jessica and I go upstairs, she plays on the floor while I do my make-up. I watch her play from the corner of the mirror. I love babysitting her. I love having her just here in the house. Sometimes it’s like she’s my baby too.

“Hey.” Tom says. I jump, startled.


“I took your cookies out of the oven, the timer went off. I came up here to see if Jessica James here wanted any.”

“Jessie, Tom says the cookies are done. You can go down with him and start eating. I’m gonna finish up here and be down in a bit. Tom, are they home yet?”

“No, see you later.”

Jessica follows him. I hasten to finish getting ready. I pull back my hair into a half ponytail, securing it with a barrette and letting the rest cascade down my back. Then I take out the curling iron and methodically go about curling the two sections and finally run a brush through it to soften the ringlets.

I pick out a purse from my collection. This one has woven panels with gold-coloured threads running through it. It’s one of my favourites.

I spread all of my stuff out on to the bed. A bottle of contact solution, my journal, a few pens, my glasses, a regular pad of paper, pack of Kleenex, my pager, a collapsing hairbrush, a small compact, the keys to the house, my little breath mints, a deep red lipstick, some chap stick, my wallet, ID card, a little bottle of hand lotion, a nail file, my little Swiss army knife thingy, a little calendar, a tiny photo album with pictures of Jessica and Lori and Chris and Sharon and the Mac, a tape measure, a worry stone with Chinese writing on it, a snowglobe that Jessica brought back from the Mall of America, a few old keys, my drivers license from 1977, two single earrings, a roll of film, a glow stick, a lock of horse hair, a CD player and some various CDs, and then finally a pair of old dice.

“Dang, I have a lot of junk!” I smile, remembering being called the bag lady in high school. I shove it all into the bag and change my earrings. I hurry downstairs.

“Hi, want a cookie?” Jessica asks.

“Oh, no thanks, sweetie.” I say, “Tom, you didn’t let her eat to many, right? She still needs to eat dinner you know.”

“Nah, just one under too many.” He winks.

“Cute. So they obviously STILL aren’t home?”


“Well, I’m going to call, they’re getting awful late.”


I go to the kitchen and dial in Lori’s cell phone.

”Hello?” she answers.

“Where are you guys?”

“Sorry, we’re almost there. We got held up in traffic down by Payson.”

“Ok,” I sigh.

“Sorry, we’ll be home soon.”

“Ok. See you then.”

We hang up and I go back to the living room.

“Well?” Tom asks.

“They got stuck in traffic and are just getting back.”

“That’s fine, we’ll still have time.”

“You’re right.” I pick up the cookie plate and take it to the kitchen. To my amazement, the dishes were not in the sink where I had left them, but cleaned and on the counter. I put them away quickly and made a note to thank Tom later. I run to the door when the bell rings.

“Hi!” I greet them both with a quick hug. “Jessie, they’re here.”

Both Tom and Jessie walk into the entry room. Jessica runs up to her parents and jumps into Chris’ arms. “Guess what Daddy?!”

“What peanut?”

“Aunt Stevie and me made cookies.!”

“Aunt Stevie and I made cookies.” Lori corrects.

“Oops. Aunt Stevie and I!”

“That’s great. Do they taste good?” he asks.


“Well, uhm, Tom and I have to get moving.” I cut in.

“Oh, hi Tom,” Lori says. “You two have fun.”

“Thanks.” I turn to him. “Are you ready?”


“Ok, then let me get my purse.”

I bop quickly into the living room and pick it up.

“Alrighty.” He opens the door and we go to his car. “Here, I’ll put your bag in the back.” He says as he reaches for my bag.

My immediate response is “What, are you insane?”

He smirks, “You never change do you?”

“Course not.”

We get in and I position the bag on my lap.

“Are you still carrying that suitcase of a bag around? Or are you just using it tonight because I gave it to you?”

“I’m still toting it around. It’s like a good pair of old slippers; you never get rid of em, you know?”

Nodding, he agrees. He pulls out of the driveway and starts down the road.

“So, how have you been?” I ask.

“Good, good. On tour again.” He sighs, “And you, you look good.”

“Thanks,” I say quietly. Tom already knows I don’t want to talk about the last few years so he drops the subject.

“So anyway, how’s Lori and Chris? They were in Payson?”

”Yeah, they went to visit mom and dad.”

“How come you didn’t go?”

I pause, “You know, that’s a good question… Uh, I guess they never offered and I didn’t ask.”

“I see.”

“Do you know something that I don’t?”

“Wouldn’t I tell you?”

“No. I know you pretty well too Tom.”

“I’m just thinking that it’s strange that they didn’t take Jessica and that you didn’t at least get invited to go.”

“Yeah.” Oh well, I hadn’t thought of it until now and I can tell Tom knows, but isn’t telling.

I lean back on in the seat. Tom and I chat about his tour. He says he’s having a good time, but he’s ready for it to end. He jokes that I should drop everything and come along. I laugh at the idea. “You’d be in Washington before I got all my stuff packed!”

He laughs too, “I know, that’s why I offered.”

We drive through Phoenix. “Now, with any luck we’ll be unnoticed.”

“Yeah, doubtful.” I say.

“Well, do you still have those old glasses?”

“Yeah. Hey, are you insulting my spectacles?”

“No,” he winks. “They just make you unrecognisable.”

“Now, don’t be putting them down. I know they’re old, but they suit me. Should I put them on?”

“If you can see enough to get to the table with them and your contacts.”


“If not, I’ll be your guide dog.”

“Good deal. What might your disguise be then?”

“Just told you, guide dog. I’ll get a little yellow vest and you can get a leash and…”

I interrupt him, laughing too hard to get a coherent sentence out. “No, really Tom.” I finally manage.

“Just these.” He dons a pair of dark sunglasses.

“Guess I should put on mine too then.”

“You should.”

I start to dig through my bag, taking out half the contents, spilling them into my lap.

“My God Steves, how long did you think we’d be gone?” he teases me.

“You know, we’ve already been over this whole thing today, and I’m sure on many other occasions.”

“And I like to tease you about it.”

“Silly.” I finally find my glasses and slip them on. “Oh, my, there went my vision.”

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

I turn my head. “Heck if I know.”


“See, I told you I’m blind.”

“’Oh well, can’t help it about the shape you’re in.’”


“Tough crowd.”

We arrive at the hotel and thankfully we are not noticed by anyone. We eat and then sit for awhile, laughing and talking.

“Hey, why are we still here?” I ask.

“I don’t know, we’re enjoying ourselves?”

“Why don’t we go back home and we can enjoy ourselves?”

“Why? Do you turn into a pumpkin?”


“Ok, sure.”

We get up and drive back to my house. I open the door and we walk in. I slip of my boots, wiggling my toes. He hangs up his jacket and turns to face me. “Hey shorty.” He tousles my hair.

“Aww, come on. Do you want anything to drink?”

“Uh, no thanks.”

“Ok, well I want a cup of tea. You’re welcome to anything in the kitchen.”

“Do you still have cookies?”

“Uh, maybe.” I say, putting the mug into the microwave. “You’re going to have to look.”

“Ok.” He rustles around the cabinets.

“No, no, not there. Look by the fridge.” I show him.

“Ahh.” He attacks the box.

“How are you still hungry? You ate a ton at the restaurant.”

“I just am.” He says through a mouthful of cookies.

“I see that.” The timer beeps and I turn to get my tea. “Well, do you want to sit down, or would you rather just scarf cookies in the kitchen?”

“We can sit down, sure.”

I lead him to the living room. Chris and Lori are sitting on the bed that serves at the couch watching the news.

“Whoops.” I say.

“Oh, hi Tee. We can move if you want.”

“Nope, don’t worry about it, we’ll go somewhere else.”

“Are you sure?”

“Totally, you guys were here first.”

“Ok, thanks.”

I wave as Tom and I walk out again. “Onto plan B.”

“Ok,” Tom says, nibbling at what must be his millionth cookie.

We go upstairs and to my room. Even though it’s the middle of April, I light the fireplace. Tom doesn’t ask why, he knows.

“Have you been doing much writing since the last album?” he asks.

“I’ve done some, I don’t know.”

“Do I get to hear any of them?”

“Uh, sure.” I get up and pull out my journal with the lyrics. “This one is called ‘Love Is’.”

“Do you know what this is?
No I don’t.
But whatever this is, it’s very powerful.
Have you felt this way before?
Oh, I don’t know when.
Do you know that I love you now, I always will.” I sing. “Actually, I don’t like that part. It’s too optimistic. What do you think?”

“Sing what you have. It’s fine so far, go ahead, start over.”

“Ok. Do you know what this is?
No I don’t.
But whatever this is, it’s very powerful.
Have you felt this way before?
Oh, I don’t know when.
Do you know that I love you now, I always will.
Love is… you’ve got the softest lips.
Love is… the touch of your fingertips.
Love is… knowing you won’t let go.
You know that I cannot stay, I know
It has nothing to do with you or with love
Oh yes it does
Do not simply come around here, do not call
You know that I loved you then, yes you knew
Love is… you’ve got the softest lips.
Love is… the touch of your fingertips.
Love is… knowing you won’t let go.
She tells him things, he thought were dead
He asks, ‘are you happy now?’
Oh yes I am.
But when I’m gone,
How will you feel?
Will you miss my arms that used to go around you?
I sat there in the hallway,
Dying, in the dark
And my heart broke down, I fell, I fell to the ground
One tear, slid across my face
To the corner of my mouth
And fell, to the floor
Love is… you’ve got the softest lips.
Love is… the touch of your fingertips.
Love is… knowing you won’t let go.
Love is… watching you go.
You’re so very powerful…
Ooh, I say love is...
Am I happy? Yes I am
Do I know you love me now? Yes I do.
Do I know you cannot stay? I do.
I know, all about love.” I finish. “So there’s that.”

“Hmm, it’s good.”

“Well, do you think I should move the words around? So it’s more, I don’t know. What would you do with it?”

“Let you sing it, the way you just did. Or how you think it’s best.”

“But I want your help.”

He looks at me.

“What?” I give him my very best puppy dog eyes. I know that usually works on him.

“Steves,” he pauses. “You know what?”


“I don’t give these too often, but I’m going to now.”

”Give what?”

“It’s time you got an inspirational lecture.”

I can tell by his face that he is totally not kidding.

“Come sit over here.” He taps the floor. I get up and sit next to him.


“How long have I known you?”

“Uh, like almost twenty years. Something like that.”

“Yes, and when I met you, you could write songs. You could. But you had just left the Mac and then you did need help in some ways. You suddenly didn’t have Lindsey to do you songs. Now tell me, how long has it been since Lindsey has finished one of your songs for you?”

“He NEVER finished by songs!” I say defensively.

“Well, then since Lindsey helped on one of them?”

“Twenty something years.”

“And in that twenty something years, how many hit songs have you written?”

“A lot.”

“Do you see what I’m getting at?”

“Not really.”

“Stevie, look, you don’t need me to work on your songs anymore. Writing your songs is your job. You gave up getting married and having babies and you basically gave up part of your life for this, to write your songs. You surely don’t need my help now.”


“No. Listen, I love the song, just the way you sang it. It doesn’t need anything else. It just needs a mom. Your songs are your babies, and you know what?”


“I had a great time with you this evening, but it’s probably time for me to go.”

“Tom, stay just a little bit longer/”

“I shouldn’t, I have to be up early tomorrow anyway. You know how it is on tour.”


“But honestly Stevie, you don’t need me for your songs. So I’m gonna go, and I want you to stay here and create more babies, ok?”

“Ok.” I say softly. I almost feel renewed, like he said it was good, it must be.

“Good girl,” he gets up and I walk with him downstairs and to the door.

“Goodnight Stevie.” He stoops to give me a hug.

“Goodnight Tom, thank you.”

“No problem.” He gives me a kiss on the cheek, like a brother.

He leaves and I lock the door behind him. I watch out the window as his tail lights fade into the darkness. Then I head back to my room and pull out my song writing feelings. I light the candles and dim the overhead lights before curling up with my journal in front of the fireplace.

Dreams reoccur in my solitude
Breaking my heart
Injuring my mood
With all of the things that I thought I knew
It was you

Well the conversation rings in my head
Well you know me better than I know myself
Will you write this for me
He says no, you write your songs yourself
That made me stronger
It made me hold on to me

Well, I remember
You caught my eye
It was late September
It was no surprise
He made me better
His songs were soft and tender sometimes


Well once more I tell the shadows of my soul
To stay back
Everything has changed now
And I don't want to go back
And nothing you can say can change my mind

Well once more I tell the shadows of my soul
To stay back
Everything has changed now
And I don't want to go back
And nothing you can say can change my mind

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