Elizabeth took a deep shuddering breath and forced herself to remain calm. She opened her eyes and looked at Carly, who had silent tears streaming down her cheeks. Her hands were resting on the table and trembling slightly.
Elizabeth reached across the table and covered them with her own. “Carly,” she said softly.
Carly bit her lip and looked at her. “Yes?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Elizabeth told her firmly. Her heartbeat began to calm and her tears subsided. “You have to believe that.”
“If I hadn’t gone upstairs…”
“You thought he was your friend,” Elizabeth told her. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“But nothing,” Elizabeth argued. “Carly…” She sighed and looked down at the table. “I don’t want to tell you how to feel, but I remember how I felt.”
“How old were you?” Carly asked softly. “When it happened, I mean.”
“Fifteen,” Elizabeth answered. A small trace of a smile flitted across her lips. “I was only fifteen.”
“Jesus.” Carly shook her head. “I just…fifteen?”
“There was this dance at school,” Elizabeth began. “And the only thing that mattered to me at the time was convincing Lucky Spencer I’d be a better match for him than my sister. I asked him to go as friends and he agreed.” She frowned. “I went out and bought this red dress and these red high heeled sandals. My grandmother loaned me her bracelet. My grandfather gave it to her.” She looked down at her wrist. “But Sarah asked Lucky at the last minute.”
“And he went with her instead,” Carly said softly.
“It broke my heart. I made up some excuse, said I’d had another offer anyway.” Elizabeth sighed and rubbed her wrist. “I went to a movie instead. And I cut through the park on my way home. I sat on the bench by the fountain and someone grabbed me.”
“You don’t…” Carly shook her head. “You don’t have to tell me anymore. I don’t–”
“It doesn’t really matter,” Elizabeth replied stiffly. “I don’t remember anything. I blocked most of it out.”
Carly hesitated. “Do you want to remember?” she asked softly.
Elizabeth bit her lip and shrugged. “Sometimes,” she whispered. “But other times, I’m thankful that I don’t.”
“I don’t remember anything either,” Carly told her. “I remember going to his room and asking him to call Jason.” Her lower lip trembled. “He said he would.”
“And he didn’t.”
Carly shook her head. “No. A-and then it’s all blank. There’s nothing else there. I don’t remember anything until I woke up the next morning. I barely had anything to drink the night before, so it had to be something in my drink.”
“Have you thought about telling Sonny or Jason?” Elizabeth asked.
Carly shook her head vehemently. “That would never work,” she said quietly. “Sonny wouldn’t…he’d…I can’t tell him. And Jason…” she trailed off and shrugged. “I don’t know. I just can’t tell him.”
“He’s worried about you,” Elizabeth told her softly. “I saw him come in the other day and ask one of the waitresses if they’d seen you.”
“He knows something is wrong,” Carly murmured. “But I can’t bring myself to tell him that I committed adultery–”
“You did nothing of the sort,” Elizabeth said firmly. “He raped you. And if I ever knew Jason at all, he’d believe you.”
“He misses you,” Carly confided. “We talked about you the other day.”
Elizabeth’s back stiffened and she looked away. “You did?”
“I wanted to understand you,” Carly replied. “I wanted to know if I could trust you, so I tried to get Jason to open up about you.”
“I can’t imagine him doing that,” she murmured.
“It didn’t work as well as I wanted it too, but I did get the sense that I could trust you. I told him about that conversation we had at Kelly’s before you left the penthouse.”
“What conversation?” Elizabeth asked softly. She frowned. “Not the one where I told you about the lipstick…”
“Yeah, that one. I don’t think Jason had any idea what you were doing the entire time you stayed there. He didn’t realize that we spent time together, didn’t think about what his actions looked like to anyone else…”
“He didn’t think about me at all,” Elizabeth said bitterly. “And I wasn’t about to come last again.”
“Again?” Carly asked pointedly.
“When I dated Lucky, his brainwashing came before the way I felt about him. He came first. Not us, not me. He did. His thoughts, his feelings, his actions. We did what he wanted to do and occasionally, if he felt generous, we’d do what I wanted to do.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Everything in our relationship was about what he wanted. We made love when he wanted, and we were finished when he was.”
“Why in the hell did you put up with that?” Carly demanded.
“Because I’d backed myself into a corner,” Elizabeth replied. “I’d alienated Jason, Emily was gone, Zander and I weren’t close, Nikolas was wrapped up in his family…all I had was Lucky and his family. I was scared to find out that I was really alone without him. So I stayed.”
“And yet when Jason came back, you went straight to him,” Carly judged. “Good way to stand on your own two feet.”
Elizabeth glared at her. “I broke up with Lucky before Jason came back. And I didn’t go to Jason, we ran into each other. I never sought Jason out on purpose. He came to Kelly’s, he came to my studio. Is it so hard to believe that maybe he cared about me, Carly? Or does that not fit in with your happy lifestyle?” She shoved her chair back. “It was a mistake to think we could get along. I’m sorry for what happened to you, but–”
“Wait,” Carly said suddenly. She stood. “I’m sorry. I just…I’m trying not to judge so quickly. I just…some habits die hard.” Her eyes watered. “Please.”
Taken aback by the strong and sudden emotion Carly displayed, Elizabeth sat back down slowly. “Okay.”
Carly sat down. “I don’t know who else I can turn to,” she whispered softly. “Things are different with me and Sonny. He knows I’ve been distant and I can only play the I’m Mad He Kissed Brenda excuse for so long before he catches on that something else happened. I’m scared I’m going to lose him and that Jason will be disgusted when he finds out…”
“He won’t,” Elizabeth assured her quickly. “And if Sonny is half the man I’ve always given him credit for, he’ll understand. You just have to have faith in people.”
“It’s hard to trust people when you’ve been knocked down so many times,” Carly said softly.
“I know what you mean,” Elizabeth replied. “But some people deserve that leap of faith.”
Carly heard footsteps on the stairs and hurriedly wiped her eyes. She frowned when she saw Ric at the doorway. “Get out.”
Ric shifted uncomfortably in the entrance. “They told me Elizabeth was downstairs here. I wanted to talk to her.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath, stood and turned to face him. “We have nothing to talk about. I told you that the last time we saw each other. Please leave.”
“Elizabeth, look, whatever she told you, it’s a lie–”
“Save your breath,” Elizabeth snarled. “I don’t want to hear it anymore. You heard Carly. Get the hell out of here. The club is closed.”
“You have to let me explain–”
“Carly, where’s the phone?” Elizabeth asked. “I want to call the police.”
“Look, I’m going. But you have to believe Elizabeth, I didn’t–”
Elizabeth turned and headed for her purse, intent on using her own cell phone to call the police.
She heard his footsteps on the steps, striding away and her shoulders relaxed. She sank into the chair and put her head in her hands.
“I can’t believe his nerve,” Carly murmured. Elizabeth looked at her sharply, saw her trembling. “He called me a liar to my face.”
Elizabeth licked her lips. “I need to go, Carly. Uh…call me, okay? We’ll…we’ll talk more.”
She snatched her bag and darted for the stairs. Jason was just coming downstairs and she ran right into him.
“I’m sorry,” she sputtered. “I…have to go.” She pushed past him and dashed up the stairs.
Jason stared after her for a minute before looking at Carly. Instantly concerned when he saw her sitting at the table, trembling, he crossed the room and sat in the seat that Elizabeth had just left. “What’s going on?”
Carly jumped. “Jason, when did you get here?”
“Just now. I passed Elizabeth on the stairs looking like she’d seen a ghost. What happened?” he demanded. “Did you have a fight with her?”
“No.” Carly shook her head. “No, it was far from a fight. Jase, I don’t want to get into it.”
“I thought you and Elizabeth didn’t get along. Why was she down here?” Jason asked.
“I’m offering her Courtney’s old job,” Carly replied softly. “I think she’d make a good hostess.”
“I’m sure she would,” Jason said. “But that doesn’t explain what just happened down here. Did she say something? Did you say something?”
Carly shrugged. “We were talking, having a perfectly good conversation and Ric came in.”
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “Ric.”
Carly swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah, Ric. He’s still upset that I fired him and that Elizabeth broke up with him. He decided to argue his case with her, and she threw him out. It shook her up a bit and she decided to go.”
“I believe that’s true,” Jason said slowly. “But it doesn’t tell me what’s been going on lately. “Something’s changed with you, Carly. I can see it.”
“Nothing’s changed,” Carly murmured. “I’m just thinking about things differently. Looking at them differently. It’s okay for a person to change.”
“I’m not saying it’s not, but Carly, you don’t wake up and just decide to change your entire outlook on life and not have a reason.”
“Why?” Carly challenged. “Why isn’t it okay for me to just change? Why do I need a reason?”
“Carly.” Jason leaned forward a little. “This is me you’re talking to. Not Sonny, not Courtney, not Bobbie, me. I know you. I know something’s wrong.”
Carly shook her head and stood. “Nothing’s wrong,” she bit out. “If anything was wrong, don’t you think I’d tell you?”
“No,” Jason replied. “You’d try to fix it yourself, your scheme would backfire and then you’d tell me.”
Carly picked her purse off the table and sighed. “It’s nice to know you think so highly of me,” she said softly. “I have to go home and get ready for tonight.”
“Carly, you know that’s not how I think,” Jason insisted.
“Maybe for once…this is something you can’t fix,” Carly murmured. “This isn’t something that backfired on me and not something that I caused.”
“What’s wrong?” Jason asked again. “Does Elizabeth have something to do with this? Does she know?”
Carly stared at him for a moment before exiting out the alley entrance of the club, leaving Jason standing alone in the club.