Hey! I put up another chapter of Smoke and Mirrors. I’m not going to kill myself trying to get two or three scenes for each chapter and making sure each chapter is like 5000 words long. I’ll write whatever gets written and there’s the chapter. Thanks for the feedback so far. I hope you guys like where it’s going.
The day Elizabeth found the mark on her thumb, she began to make plans. Moving two small boys and their entire world to upstate New York when the school year had barely begun was no small process.
She designed greeting cards and other small print illustrations, a job that could be easily relocated but this could not be the mad dash she’d made when Cameron was one years old, and Jake not yet born.
That day, she packed anything that couldn’t be replaced in the trunk of her battered Volvo, gotten on the highway and simply driven south. She’d lived in a few places over the years, all over southeastern New York state, and had moved into the city only two years earlier to be closer to her agent.
She’d worked any job that would put food on the table for the boys, from waitressing to store clerk—nothing was beneath her. Finding her dream job as an illustrator had been almost an accident—she had applied to a Craig’s List ad to illustrate someone’s self-published novel.
That job had led to others and had quickly become her main source of income. She could do that in Port Charles as easily as she did it in the city.
But her boys didn’t want to move—didn’t want to leave their school and friends without a good reason, so she’d told them she wanted a house where they could have their own rooms and a backyard. Maybe even a pool, Jake had slyly suggested.
So, the hunt to find a house she could afford with three bedrooms, a nice backyard—and across town from her old life. She had been able to gleam from Facebook that Anna Devane still lived in the old house on Charles Street where she had raised her daughter Robin and niece Nadine from childhood until college. Robin and Nadine worked at General Hospital, and from what Elizabeth could see, lived together in an apartment nearby.
Across town, Elizabeth found a nice home in the Queen’s Point neighborhood—a newer residential development, and even better Mercy Hospital was closer than General. Elizabeth could avoid her family until she was ready to face them.
By Halloween, Elizabeth had settled the boys into their home and schools. Cameron was a boisterous kid who made friends easily, Jake a bit quiet and slower to integrate, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Elizabeth couldn’t expect the kids to reconstruct their entire lives in less than a month.
Port Charles had grown in the years since she’d left. Already a mid-sized city, the downtown had grown more congested—there were taller buildings than she remembered—and her development was just one of five or six that had sprung up around the edges of the city.
Maybe…maybe she didn’t have to hurry to talk to her aunt and cousins.
And maybe she could put off looking up her ex-boyfriend and talking to him about what came next about Jake.
More than she was dreading the confrontation with her aunt—Elizabeth really didn’t want to see Jake’s father. She knew that it would bring back all the reasons she’d left—and the anger she still felt that no one in her family had believed her.
She knew from social media that Jason Morgan had married twice since they’d broken up, but both marriages had ended in divorce. His Facebook profile was set to private, and she could only see his business profile, but there had been pictures of Nadine and Robin at his weddings on Nadine’s profile.
He’d married for the first time less than a year after she’d left, just before she’d given birth to Jake and sent him the second of three letters, all of which had been unanswered.
Maybe she’d over reacted about what the mark meant, Elizabeth decided three weeks after they’d moved. She was sitting on her front porch waiting for the boys to return from school. They were going to start decorating for Halloween today, and this was one of Jake’s favorite holidays. He loved carving pumpkins and liked making a lot of their decorations. It would be nice to take them around a neighborhood rather than an apartment building.
Maybe the mark was a warning not to have any more children. Maybe the next child would be a girl, and the curse only applied to girls. She idly smoothed her finger over the pale pink mark.
Or maybe she was just fooling herself. Maybe every day of the last four years since Cameron had turned five had been borrowed time. Every day she waited to talk to Anna or Jason was another day she couldn’t get back.
Maybe her aunt knew what was going on—maybe there was another spell, another charm Elizabeth could cast. She knew now the desperation of the mothers who had gone before her—the devastating prospect of never seeing her children grow up.
She didn’t hear the tow truck come down the street—didn’t even see the truck pull into the driveway next door and a man of average height climb out, his dark blonde hair catching the last of the October sun.
A few houses away, closer to the corner, a yellow school bus pulled up, and Elizabeth got to her feet to go towards the gate.
As she stepped off the porch—as the man in the driveway next to her turned away from the car he was unhooking from his truck—
The way he said her name hadn’t changed. Not in more than seven years. The hairs on her arms lifted as a chill went down her spine.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and turned. “Jason.”
Jason Morgan’s hands fell from the truck, his clipboard at his side. “You—What—” He stopped speaking. Shook his head.
He was almost thirty-five now, Elizabeth remembered. She had just celebrated her twenty-ninth birthday, and Jason was about five years older than she was. She’d known him since she was a teenager—since she had met her mother’s family.
He’d come into her life as the boyfriend of her cousin’s best friend. One of Robin’s boyfriends had been a friend of his, and Elizabeth remembered the four of them at different holidays and parties she’d attended.
And then…one day, when she’d been twenty years old and struggling to support her infant son—she’d gone to work at the same garage where he was a mechanic.
It was ten years later, but Jason hadn’t changed much. He had filled out a bit, maybe—his shoulders a bit broader. He was more muscular; his face had some lines. But his hair was still worn short, clipped into spikes. His eyes still looked—
“I—” Elizabeth began, but the sounds of sneakers pounding against the sidewalk drew her attention as Jake and Cameron ran towards them, their bookbags bouncing against her shoulders.
“Mom! Mom!” Cameron panted. “I did it! I got an A! Now you gotta let me get a new game—”
“Cam—” Elizabeth started, conscious that Jason’s eyes had gone to her sons. At her youngest son with his sunny blond hair, sparkling blue eyes.
Her youngest son with his father’s shy smile and strong facial features.
“Mom, mom, did you get the pumpkins?” Jake demanded. “It’s my turn to pick the one I want first—”
“They’re inside—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You guys, I want you to meet someone I knew when I was younger.” She put a hand on Jake’s shoulder and turned him to face Jason.
Cameron frowned at her, but then looked at the man. “Oh, yeah, you used to live in Port Charles. I was born here, too. Did you know me?”
“I—” Jason cleared his throat, but no words fell from his lips.
“Jason, these are my sons, Cameron and Jake.” Elizabeth hands shook so she slid them into the pockets of her jeans. “Cam—he was only a year old when I moved—and Jake—”
“I’m seven,” Jake said. “I’m born in May.” He tilted his head up. “Where was I born?”
“Schenectady,” Elizabeth murmured. “Boys, this is Jason Morgan.”
“Oh, okay. Mom, can I order the game?” Cameron asked, having lost interest. “I knew I would ace the test, so I put it in my Amazon shopping cart this morning. Can I? Can I? You promised—”
“Yeah, yeah.” Elizabeth pressed a hand to her temple. “Take your brother with you. Jake, you can pick out your pumpkin, but don’t—”
“I know, I know. Don’t touch anything.” Jake flashed her a grin and then a shyer smile at Jason who continued to stare at him. “Nice to meet you. Bye!”
Both boys dashed inside, leaving Elizabet alone in her front yard with Jason.
“He—” Jason looked towards the house. “He’s seven. Born in May. You—you moved in November—before—”
Elizabeth huffed. “I wrote you when he was born, Jason. Don’t pretend you didn’t know exactly how old he is. This isn’t how I wanted—”
Jason held up a hand and she fell silent. “What do you mean…you wrote me?”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “I wrote you three times. When I was six months pregnant. When Jake was born. And then when he turned a year old. I never bothered again.”
“How did you—” Jason hesitated, a shadow settling across his features. “How did you know he was mine? I mean…I can see it—but you wouldn’t have known that yet.”
Her heart twisted, and Elizabeth closed her eyes. She didn’t realize—not until this moment—that there was still a small piece of that had held out hope that she’d been wrong that last day.
That somehow, she’d misread the scene with Jason and Robin—that when Jason had looked at her, stone-faced, and asked for her side of her story—when she had felt the waves of disgust and anger all but drowning her senses—that she’d been wrong.
But he had believed Robin.
“You mean why did I bother writing you because as far as you and everyone else is concerned, I’m a complete whore who slept with my cousin’s boyfriend?” Elizabeth asked coolly.
I took a lot of this week off, mostly due to a cold that disrupted my plans. But I slept in a lot, relaxed. I didn’t even work on the third paper that I need to finish for this semester. I’m trying to recharge.
One of the reasons my longer stories take so long to get to you guys is I’m trying to complete them in advance and go through beta reading, which is not something I ever did when I was writing a decade ago. In fact, back then, I had three or four stories in progress at all times which was sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. I still tended to write more.
So I’m going to start posting a second story — one that I don’t schedule regular updates. You guys will get updates when I write them, which means it may be a while between chapters or they may come daily, depending on the muse. I’m trying to take some pressure off myself.
This is an alternate universe story, a reworking of the Homecoming series from the Workshop. I’ve posted the prologue of Smoke and Mirrors, and hopefully it’s something you guys like.
I also did some housekeeping — updated the By Title page, added some missing stuff to Short Stories and Recent Updates, etc. So the site is current again. I hope to be back writing more regularly.
She saw the mark one morning while she was brushing her teeth.
Elizabeth Webber took care to wake an hour before either of her rambunctious sons crawled out of bed. She used that hour to drink a cup of coffee, take a shower, pay her bills—do any number of the thousands of things that required her attention so that when her boys were awake, she could be with them one hundred percent.
It was important to them that her babies always felt like they were the center of her attention—that nothing was more important than them. No one would ever accuse Elizabeth Imogene Webber of not putting her kids first.
She couldn’t say for certain that the mark hadn’t been there the morning before—or even that it hadn’t been there when she had gone to sleep.
It was there now—just a tiny, pale pink shape at the base of her thumb. An inverted pentagram.
Elizabeth stared at it, the tooth brush sliding from her fingers into the porcelain sink, the white paste mingling with the water still pouring from the faucet.
She ran her fingers over it, lightly at first, and then, her breath mixed with half sobs, digging at it with her nails.
But it wasn’t a scab. It wasn’t a stain from her inks or markers. It was part of her skin, staring at her as if it had always been there.
Her mother had had a similar mark. So had one of her aunts. According to the stories Elizabeth had been told as a teenager, two of the three Devane women had seen the mark appear at their birth. But it was supposed to be over—a curse cast generations ago by a scorned enemy of an ancestor, broken by Elizabeth’s mother and aunts.
And it had been broken—Elizabeth was the first woman in more than six decades to have a son—two of them—and see them past their fifth birthday. Cameron was nine, Jake was seven.
She stared at the mark, reddened by her nails, and closed her eyes.
Oh, God. Would she be dead in five years? What would happen to her boys? Was this the fear her mother had known in the days leading up to Elizabeth’s birth? Knowing that even if Gracie Devane Webber did everything right, she would never see her daughter grow up? Gracie and her sister Maria had sacrificed their lives to break the curse so that Elizabeth and her cousin Nadine could have a chance at a normal life.
But it had been a lie. Elizabeth had been granted merely more time but not a lifetime.
She opened her eyes and stared at her reflection in the mirror.
There was no choice, not really. She should have known it would always come to this.
She would have to go home.
Home was not here in New York City, in the cramped two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights. The room her boys shared barely fit their bunk bed, dresser, and toy box. She and the boys used the dining room table for eating meals, designing greeting cards, and completing homework.
Their entire world—a world Elizabeth had worked so hard to give them—existed in this fifteen hundred square feet space. Her boys didn’t have much, but they were happy. Safe. Secure.
And now she would have to blow that apart. To stay here, wait for the inevitable meant her boys would be left without a family or a parent to care for them. They would never have any answers.
And they might even somehow carry the same curse that had afflicted her family for generations.
She would have to take them home, back to her family. Back to the life she had fled.
Jake’s father would have to deal with him finally, and Elizabeth would have to come face to face with the horrors she had fled more than seven years earlier.
She had to find a way to break this curse, or barring a miracle, find a way to see her boys taken care of.
It was time to return to Port Charles.
In an effort to bring back Workshop Sundays, I bring you A Sign of Life, set in 1999. It’s an idea I’m workshopping and hoping to turn into a longer story.
I’m almost finished everything that needs to be done before I can really take a break. Teaching requirements are done, student teaching is over — I just need to write two papers. I can’t wait to really get back to writing!
I’ve been playing with two ideas for a story taking place in 1999. I wanted to workshop this one a little bit to get a feel for the characters and work out some story kinks.
Starts after the infamous Christmas Party fight and written in about 45 minutes, give or take a computer crash. Not spell checked or edited for grammar.
December 27, 1999
Bannister’s Wharf & Elm St. Pier
Elizabeth Webber slowly made her way down the stairs at the wharf, grimacing as she stepped off the landing to the pier that lay adjacent to her building.
Even from this distance, she recognized the figures milling at the base of the dock stairs, next to the bench. The last thing she needed after a double shift at Kelly’s was a run-in with the Port Charles Police Department.
But there was no avoiding them—it was either today, tomorrow, or another day. She supposed she should thank someone in the universe that it had taken Detectives Marcus Taggert and Andrew Capelli nearly forty-eight hours to follow up on the accusation that she was sleeping with Jason Morgan.
It hadn’t taken anyone else in her life nearly that long to weigh in with an opinion. Emily had arrived the day before shortly after Jason had abruptly decided to move out and demanded answers. Elizabeth had been so annoyed with best friend that she’d smirked and said nothing.
Bobbie had given her that worried look, her grandmother had looked disappointed—and Edward Quartermaine had decided it was worth slumming it at Kelly’s to check in on the rumors.
And that was just the people she knew. Apparently the fight at the hospital had been written up in the local gossip papers and she’d had giggling girls in her section at the diner all day.
“Gentlemen,” Elizabeth murmured as she stopped in front of them, “Are you blocking the steps for a reason or can I get past?”
“Elizabeth.” Taggert managed a warm smile for her. “How was your Christmas?”
“Fine.” She lifted her chin. “Can I help you? I’ve been on my feet all day, which I’m sure you know since you also knew when my shift ended.”
Capelli arched his brows. “Why—”
“Because I doubt you were waiting for me here all that long. Did you ask Bobbie my schedule?” Elizabeth asked. “If you’re not waiting for me, then you can move. I’m tired.”
“Nikolas Cassadine came into file assault charges on Jason Morgan.” Taggert tipped his head. “You’re a witness, aren’t you?”
Elizabeth scowled. “Nikolas pushed Jason first. It was—” She shook her head. She’d take a page from Jason’s book for a change. “I have nothing to say to you. You can talk to the other witnesses or the surveillance tape.”
“I didn’t realize you and Morgan were so close,” Taggert said. He rocked back on his heels. “How long have you been dating?”
Elizabeth stared at him for a long moment before pressing her lips together. “Why don’t you ask me what you really want to know?”
“What makes you think we’re not here about the assault?” Capelli asked with a smirk. “Cassadine filed a report—”
“Which, I’m sure, was easily refuted since most of the hospital was there when it happened. You’re not here on assault charges, Taggert.”
“I guess you’re not as dumb as you look,” Capelli retorted. “I didn’t expect that much from someone who screws a criminal—”
“Yeah, we’re done now.” Elizabeth attempted to move past them, but Taggert blocked her again. “Am I under arrest?”
“No. I apologize for my partner here. He’s new.” Taggert shot a death glare at the younger man who just shrugged. “Where were you on December 1?”
“December 1—” Elizabeth blinked. The night before she’d found Jason at the boxcar. Damn it. “I don’t know. That was like a month ago.”
“It was a Wednesday, the week after Thanksgiving. Ring a bell?”
“I don’t know. I think—” Elizabeth bit her lip, trying to look as if she was remembering it. Not cooperating at all would just keep them looking at her or Jason, so could she give them enough to go away? “I think I had my last classes of the semester that Wednesday—yeah, I guess that makes sense. I had classes and then a shift at Kelly’s until closing. You can check my schedule with Bobbie.”
“Did you see Jason Morgan that night?” Capelli cut in as Taggert began to open his mouth. “How long?”
Elizabeth wrinkled her brows. This was tricky. “He came in at closing. Roy DiLucca was leaving at the same time—”
“Oh, now you remember specifics?” Capelli said with a smirk. “Sure. Morgan told you to give him an alibi, huh—”
“I was having a bad night,” Elizabeth cut in sharply. “I had a bad grade on a project that last day. I forgot to give Roy his change and knocked over the tip jar. Jason helped me clean up. Anything else?”
“How long were you with Morgan that night?” Taggert demanded.
Elizabeth scowled at him. “What exactly are you asking me right now, Detective? None of this is your business. I answered your questions. I want to go—”
“We pulled a body from the harbor yesterday,’’ Taggert said, holding up a hand as she tried to pass him. “Anthony Moreno. No one’s seen him since December 1.”
“That has nothing to do with me. Now either let me pass—”
“What do you think Lucky Spencer would say about you screwing around five minutes after he died? With a man like Jason Morgan?”
Taggert scowled at his partner as Elizabeth stepped back. Tears swelled in her eyes. “Do you think he’d be angry?” Her voice quavered.
“Elizabeth—” Taggert sighed, looked at her. “Don’t—”
“I mean, Lucky loved me. I thought he’d be happy I was…happy again. That I found someone to c-care—” She allowed her voice to stop as she sucked in a deep breath. “He and Jason were friends. Am I—maybe I should be alone. I mean, maybe you’re only supposed to love someone once. I’m only eighteen, but maybe that was it–”
“That’s not what—” He scowled. “Damn it, Capelli.” He grabbed his partner’s arm and shoved him away, clearing the steps. “We’ll finish this another time.”
Elizabeth sniffled, rushed up the stairs, and made for the entrance to her building where she stopped and looked back. Taggert and Capelli were already tiny figures crossing the wharf where it met the street and parking lot.
“Works every time,” she muttered as she flicked away the tears. Imagine them throwing Lucky in her face like Lucky would begrudge her moving on.
Not that she was moving on. She wasn’t. Even if she wanted to, there was no one to move on with. Jason had made that clear by moving out the second he could.
“Are you okay?”
Elizabeth turned to find Jason emerging from the corner of her building, concern etched in his features, in his pale blue eyes. “I thought it would be worse if they saw me—”
“Oh.” Elizabeth shrugged. “Yeah, no it’s fine. They wanted to know if I was with you on December 1 because apparently that’s the last time anyone saw Anthony Moreno alive. By the way, they pulled him from the harbor a couple of days ago.” She pulled her keys out of her purse. “Are you coming up?”
Jason stared at her for a long moment before tilting his head to the side. “You—you’re not upset. You were messing with them.”
“They wouldn’t go away, and I don’t have a lawyer on speed dial. Nothing makes a man run faster than tears. At least that’s what my mom always said.” She held her keys up. “Coming up or not?”