Chapter 9

This entry is part 9 of 37 in the Counting Stars

But I wish that you were here with me
Well then there’s hope yet
I can see your face in our secret place
You’re not just a memory
Say goodbye to yesterday
Those are words I’ll never say 

This Used To Be My Playground, Madonna

Saturday, March 11, 2000

Kelly’s: Dining Room

“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Bobbie declared with a smile. She set the diner’s receipts and invoices aside as Elizabeth took a stool next to her at the counter. “I haven’t seen you since your last shift.”

“Yeah, I wanted to really dive into the new job,” Elizabeth said, with a wince. And put some distance between her old life and the new.

“How’s it going? Are you happy with it?”

“Mostly,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not really what I wanted to do with my art,” she continued with a sigh, “but I just got the first paycheck, and no offense—” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s twice as much as I would have made here. Even with tips.”

“No offense taken.” Bobbie squeezed her hand. “I always knew you were meant for better and brighter things.” Her smile faded slightly. “I expected to lose you last year. You and Lucky, off to New York.”

“Yeah.” Elizabeth waited as Penny set a miniature tea kettle next to her cup. She poured water, then set some tea in to steep. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to stop in. Laura left a voicemail asking me to come to dinner this week. She said she’d invited the entire family, and I was wondering if you knew who that meant. I didn’t know how to ask her—”

“She asked me to come as well. I told her that you might not be comfortable attending if Nikolas were there. She seemed a bit surprised, but agreed.” Bobbie tipped her head.

“You didn’t tell her about that day here? About the fight?”

“I couldn’t.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “She’s starting to bounce back and look like her old self. Luke’s home and he’s with them more now. Things are sort of getting back to normal, and the one thing that Laura has is that Nikolas is part of her life now. Luke has sort of accepted him.” She met Bobbie’s eyes. “You didn’t say anything, did you?”

“The specifics, no. Laura knew the gossip around the Christmas party and Nikolas’s part in it,” Bobbie reminded her. “I just let her think that you and Nikolas haven’t really resolved that.”

“He hasn’t reached out. I don’t even know what I’d say to him if he did—”

“Don’t feel like you have to forgive him on Laura’s account. If she knew the things he’d said to you—”

“Bobbie—” Elizabeth stopped as the diner door swung open and Carly stalked in. She stopped short when she saw her mother at the counter with Elizabeth. Then set her face in a determined expression and approached.

“Mama,” Carly said coolly, leaning down to kiss Bobbie’s cheek. She looked at Elizabeth and pursed her lips. “Elizabeth. My mother said you got a new job. Something with art.”

“I did.”

“That’s good.” Carly pulled out the extra chair, took seat between them. Elizabeth tensed, her fingers tightening around her water glass. “Do you like it?”

“So far.” Unsure what Carly was doing, Elizabeth didn’t really know what to do. She hated how worried Bobbie looked, the way the older woman’s eyes kept darting back and forth between them. Bobbie meant so much to her — “Uh, I saw in the paper that you’re doing some charity thing at the hotel.”

“A benefit for cancer,” Carly said with a terse nod. “For breast cancer. Because of Monica,” she added. “I was hoping you might buy a ticket,” she said to her mother. “And, uh, maybe you and your grandmother,” she added almost as an afterthought to Elizabeth.

“Of course. For Monica.”

“I’ll talk to Gram,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sure she’d want to go. Thank you for asking.”

“You’re welcome. I need to go. I’ll call you later.” Carly rose and left. Bobbie twisted in her seat to watch her daughter leave.

“That was strange,” Elizabeth murmured. “Not bad strange, just—”

“I’m hoping Carly is making the best of her situation,” Bobbie said finally. “But with her, you can never tell. Thank you for going along with it.”

“Carly and I don’t have to have any problems. We didn’t before, and with Jason gone—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “We don’t have to have any now. We weren’t friends. We still aren’t. We both love you, so I see no reason we can’t be civil.”

“Thank you,” Bobbie repeated, squeezing her hand. “And I meant what I said about Nikolas. Laura will understand how you feel. What he did—what he said—was cruel. And she’d respect your decision to keep your distance.”

Elizabeth nodded, knowing Bobbie was right. But she didn’t want Laura to feel as though she had to choose between her deceased son’s girlfriend and her own son. The last thing Elizabeth wanted was Laura to be in the middle. Maybe it was for the best if Elizabeth just put more space between herself and Lucky’s family.

Monday, March 13, 2000

Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room

The phone had been ringing for nearly a full minute by the time Sonny was able to get through the front door. He snatched the receiver off the hook. “Hello?”


Sonny exhaled sharply, turned to look at Alexis who had followed him in. “Jason. Man, it’s good to hear from you.” Nearly two months without a word—Sonny had almost given up. “How are you?”

“Fine.” There was long pause. “Is everything okay there?”

“Uh, yeah, yeah. Sorel got smacked around a little bit by Vega’s guys and he’s mostly calmed down. He hasn’t gone near Elizabeth since you left.”


“Uh, how’s travels? You seen anything good?”

“It’s fine.” There was another long pause, but Sonny decided it was a good sign that Jason hadn’t broken the connection yet. And if he wasn’t going to ask, then Sonny would do it for him.

“She’s doing really good, you know. She left her job at Kelly’s and is doing something with her art—” Sonny looked at Alexis. “What did you say it was?”

“Greeting cards,” Alexis supplied. “She’s a freelancer.”

“Right. She’s doing art for greeting cards,” Sonny told Jason. “Have you—”

“I have to go.” The line went dead, but Sonny still waited. Hoped. And then the dial tone began to echo in his ear. He squeezed his hand around the receiver for a long moment, then gently placed it back on the receiver.

“It’s a good sign,” Alexis said when Sonny remained silent. “He called. You didn’t think he’d do that—”

“No. No, I didn’t.” Maybe he shouldn’t have brought up Elizabeth, but Sonny just—he wanted Jason to know she was all right. That she was doing something with her dream. He scrubbed a hand down his face. “This is my fault,” he muttered.

“A little bit. But you’re not the only reason he left,” Alexis reminded him, her matter of fact tone oddly reassuring. “You know it was because of Carly.”

“Yeah, but that’s still my fault.” Sonny could regret the hurt he’d caused Jason—and he certainly did—but he couldn’t regret the effect that terrible night had had. Jason had finally and firmly cut ties with Carly. He’d even started to move on. Just because Carly’s antics with Michael had been the final straw—

It didn’t mean Sonny was off the hook or that he could forgive himself.

“He called once, he’ll call again.” Alexis set her briefcase on the chair. “Do you want to tell Elizabeth?”

“No.” Sonny shook his head. “I don’t know if he’s keeping in touch with her, and if he’s not—” It might hurt for her to know Jason had contacted him. “If she asks, fine. But if not, I don’t see the point.”

Studio: Hallway

Elizabeth only made it halfway to her front door when she found the postcard. A month since the first one. Her breath caught as she let the other pieces of mail drop to the ground, holding the card with both hands.

It was from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, but the postmark was from Utah. He’d written more than just his name this time, but not by much. He’d written her name and the date — March 7—then a simple message. The street artists reminded me of you. I wish you could have explained what they were drawing.

March 7. That had been a Tuesday — he must have been in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. At least this time, he’d mailed it at the time of writing it.

She smiled at the thought of taciturn and solitary Jason Morgan wandering the insane streets on the wildest night of the year. She would have loved to see it—

Elizabeth knelt to retrieve the rest of her mail. She unlocked the door to the studio, and dumped everything on the table. She set the postcard next to the first one.

She’d been so happy to get the first card, even hopeful that it meant that he missed her. Maybe he’d come back. Maybe whatever he was looking for—he’d found it and they could take the next step.

But then there had been nearly another month of silence. Elizabeth was trying to accept that they’d missed their chance, that the timing wouldn’t be on their side. She hadn’t thought of him much since starting the new job, since planning to move—

Now, he’d sent another postcard. Was he thinking the same? Trying to move on? Not able to?

She wanted to believe it meant something, but he still hadn’t called her. He was still leaving messages for Emily, and she was sure he had checked in with Sonny, though she hadn’t asked. He hadn’t let her hear his voice.

Elizabeth grimaced, picked up the postcards, then dumped them in a drawer. She hoped Jason was having a good time in Utah, or wherever he was now. If he couldn’t bother to call her, she wasn’t going to waste her time looking for clues that didn’t exist. She had a life to live.

Benson, Arizona

Kartchner Caverns

Jason had only gone to Utah for a few days before drifting back to Arizona, this time, heading deeper into the state towards the Mexico border. He’d tossed the postcard in the mail, regretting it almost immediately. And that regret had pushed him into calling Sonny only to learn that she’d been right to stay behind. She was working with her art, just like she’d dreamed.

Maybe she didn’t even want to hear from him — he’d been gone two months and had done nothing but send a stupid postcard—two of them now, neither of which were good enough.  Why had he even bothered to send them? What was he even trying to do say? To say? What was the point?

Feeling oddly embarrassed by the whole thing, he’d checked out of the motel and gone south, thinking he needed to get further away this time. That he needed to get out of the country. And he needed to get Elizabeth out of his head entirely.

On the way down, he’d stopped at a bar and had nearly picked up the blonde down the end who’d been giving him signals. He’d even bought the woman—whose name he didn’t even remember now—a drink. But he couldn’t do it. Not yet. It felt like he’d be using her — and that wasn’t fair to her. Or to himself.

Maybe that was the answer, he thought as he followed the tour guide in the caves, arching his face up towards the strange formations twisting and turning out of the ceiling of the cave.  Maybe he just had to move on. Find somewhere else that could be home for a while. Constantly moving was part of the problem. Maybe he should stay in one place.

And he should just call Elizabeth. And his sister. Instead of postcards and messages on the answering machine. He’d survived calling Sonny, hadn’t he? What was the big deal? He was making it more important than it needed to be. The next time he was thinking of her, he’d just reach for the nearest phone and call.

Simple as that.

But he’d been lying to himself. Because he thought about Elizabeth five minutes later in the gift shop when he passed the postcards. He bought the usual four (did everyone sell them for a dollar like this?) and when he returned his motel room, instead of picking up the phone, he pulled out the postcards.

He wasn’t ready to hear her voice. Not yet.

Thursday, March 16, 2000


“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Laura said, tugging off her coat. “I figured I had a better shot of catching you if I just showed up.”

“It’s fine.” Elizabeth took her brushes over to the sink and began to clean up. “I was about done for the day.”

Laura turned in a slow circle, taking in the various sketches and canvases that cluttered the small space. “You’ve really been hard at work since the last time I came by. These are beautiful—” She tilted her head as she took in a landscape of trees by a lake. “A bit sad,” she murmured.

“I guess that’s good. It’s for a condolences line,” Elizabeth said when Laura just looked at her. “They wanted some moody atmosphere landscapes for people to give at funerals.” Her smile was thin. “It was my first freelance contract.”

“Ah.” Laura backed away. “Well, you’ve done nailed it. They…they resemble some of the ones I got.” She looked back to Elizabeth. “So it’s going well? Bobbie said you’d stopped in for the first time in a few weeks and you looked happy.”

“Yeah, it’s good. I’m settling in.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I’m sorry. I meant to call you back, but—”

“Bobbie explained there was still some awkwardness with Nikolas after Christmas. But that doesn’t have anything to do with me.” She tilted her head. “Will you let me take you out? Luke has Lulu tonight, so it would just be us.”

“I—” Elizabeth hesitated, then looked  back at Laura. “I don’t know.”

“I get the sense, and Bobbie does as well, that you’re using this job to push us away. You’ve left Kelly’s, even though the new job is freelance and you might want the extra income. You’re not returning calls, you’re not stopping by.”

“I’ve been busy—”

“Sweetheart, I’m just worried. It’s been almost a year—”

“You don’t have to worry about me anymore,” Elizabeth told her. “You or Bobbie. I’m okay now. And I’m moving on. Like you said, it’s been almost a year, and I’ve started to work towards my future—”

“Did you think the only reason either of us were looking in on you was becauseof Lucky?”

“No—” Elizabeth stared at the sink, watching as color seeped from the brush, pooling into the sink and disappearing into the drain. “No.”

Laura remained silent, but Elizabeth knew she wanted more. And maybe Elizabeth wanted to explain. Or try to. She set the brushes in the rack, grabbed a towel, and turned to face Laura, drying her hands. “After Lucky died, I was a mess. I tried so hard not to be, but I made things worse. I drifted in a fog, and I pretended to be okay, but when I was alone, I just—I wasn’t okay. I clung to everything that reminded me of Lucky. Kelly’s, especially. I kept the sweater he’d given me one night—” Tears burned in her eyes. “His family.”


“And it helped until it didn’t. I realized I was stuck, like I was in the mud and I couldn’t get free. But then I did. And I started to see tomorrow. And then—”

She stopped, but Laura’s eyes only grew kinder. “And then Jason left.”

“He—” Elizabeth stared at her hands. “I knew he had to go. I told him to. Carly and everything else here—it was drowning him, and I knew what that was like. He had to go.” Her voice broke. “And I begged him for a night. Just one. I never got that with Lucky, but I couldn’t let Jason go without it.”

“Oh, baby—” Laura came forward to pull Elizabeth into her arms, rocking slightly.

“He asked me to go with him. And I wanted to. I still do. But I couldn’t.” She closed her eyes. “I know I made the right decision, but every day I wake up and I wonder what if—”

“Why was it the right decision?” Laura asked.

“Because I was so lost without Lucky. I didn’t know who I was without him. Everything in my life I have because of him. You, Bobbie, Emily, that job at Kelly’s—everything was something that belonged to Lucky first. Giving up my life here—to follow Jason—my life would be tied to him. And then what—” Elizabeth sucked in a sharp, ragged breath. Stepping back. “What happens when it’s over? Where do I go? What do I have? Nothing. I’d disappear. So I told him no, and he’s gone. And I’m here trying to make it worth it. Trying not to resent him for leaving. For staying gone. Trying to make a life that belongs only to me—”

“And you think that means you have to walk away from the people that belonged to Lucky?” Laura swept Elizabeth hair off her shoulders, tucking it behind her ears, then cupping her face. “Sweetheart, what makes you think Bobbie and I are going to let that happen? Lucky belonged to us, but now so do you—”

“It’s not—”

“You gave my son a taste of happiness, of real, true love that most people don’t find in a lifetime. I’ll always rage at the world that he didn’t have more time—” And now Laura had to struggle for a breath. “But he had you, and I thank God for it. But that’s not why I love you. It’s not why Bobbie treasures you, and it’s not why Ruby hired you in the first place.”

Elizabeth searched the older woman’s eyes. “It’s not?”

“You came over to my house,” Laura reminded her, “and told me that we had more in common than just our last name. Because of you, because of your courage, I had the strength to face the truth about what had happened to me. You never had the chance to become my daughter by marriage,” she continued, “but you are still mine. And Bobbie loves you just the same. I promise that.”

“I feel so silly—” Elizabeth laughed slightly, a hysterical giggle that escaped her lips. “I’m sorry—”

“Don’t be. I’m so proud of you for knowing what you needed and doing it. I’m sure it must have been so hard to tell Jason no, but you did. Are you sorry?”

“Yes. And no. No.” Elizabeth drew back, took a deep breath. “I’m sorry that the timing was wrong. That we couldn’t have longer. But I’m not sorry I stayed. I needed to be here. I need to be me. Just me. I need to know who I am.”

“Good.” Laura kissed her forehead.  “Let’s get dinner. We’ll try that Italian place on the other side of town. No chance of Carly over there.”

Friday, March 17, 2000


She nearly missed the postcard again.

It was tucked inside a bundle of advertisements and circulars from the local stores that Elizabeth always threw out—but the corner of the card stuck out of the trash can, its stamp visible above the rest of the chunk.  She really hadn’t expected another one so soon.

On the heels of the conversation with Laura, Elizabeth nearly left it where it sat. What good would it to do to look at whatever he’d written, see where he’d been? Moving on and building that new identity was the plan, not wallowing in what ifs and nevers.

Finally, she plucked it out of the garbage. This card was from Arizona — Kartchner’s Caverns, the glossy print proclaimed, home of the world’s largest stalactite formation! She smiled, though the image of Jason on a guided tour in a cave wasn’t nearly as entertaining as his braving the crowds at Mardi Gras.

It was postmarked on March 13, that same week, and that was the same date on the card. There was no message this time. Only his name, and her address. She sighed, then went to put it away with the others.

Was there no message because he didn’t have anything to say? Or because there was too much? What would she even say if he finally called her? What would the point be? If he wasn’t coming home—

But that wasn’t fair. He hadn’t left because he wanted to, but because he’d needed to. And Elizabeth knew if she’d asked him to, he would have stayed. Before everything had changed, they had been friends. And Jason was reaching out. Maybe he didn’t know how to navigate their friendship with everything in between. But he was trying. And if he ever did call, she’d answer.

But until then, she was going to keep her head down and move forward, and hope one day, she’d look up and be happy where she was standing.

She took the postcards out of the drawer where she’d hidden them away, and pinned them on a bulletin board above her artist’s table, where she had hung magazines and photos that inspired her.


  • I hope Jason comes back soon and claim Liz. Or Liz finds out she is having Jason’s baby.

    According to Shelly Samuel on December 5, 2022
  • I’m so pleased you’re giving Jason and Elizabeth chances to grow out of their trauma, or at least, Elizabeth anyway. Jason seems to think she doesn’t want to hear from him? I loved her conversation with Laura, that Elizabeth has value to people for who SHE is, love that she broke free of waitressing and is using her love of art to make a living. Carly… is also… trying? Thanks!

    According to jill on December 5, 2022
  • So good

    According to leasmom on December 5, 2022
  • Love your stories. Can’t wait to see what happens.

    According to Patti on December 6, 2022
  • I wish Jason would call Elizabeth. I loved the talk with Elizabeth and Bobbie and Laura.

    According to Carla P on December 7, 2022
  • I can’t wait until Jason comes back. I loved Laura’s talk with Elizabeth. They both need this time apart so that they can finally be together but it’s killing me. They need to talk.

    According to arcoiris0502 on December 12, 2022