Chapter 12

This entry is part 12 of 37 in the Counting Stars

I try to say goodbye and I choke
Try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not near
Goodbye and I choke
I try to walk away and I stumble
Though I try to hide it, it’s clear
My world crumbles when you are not near

I Try, Macy Gray

Monday, March 27, 2000

Hardy House: Porch

Elizabeth stepped out and turned to slide the key into the deadlock, waiting to hear the tumblers click. She took a deep breath, bracing herself for the coming days and weeks.

It was the first time she’d ventured out of the house since she’d stood in this spot the morning before and cut ties with Jason. She hadn’t even waited for him to drive away before she went inside, locking the door, worried that if she didn’t throw obstacles in front of her, she’d run after him.

It had been the right decision, she thought, to say goodbye. To ask him to stop writing. As much as it hurt—and it sliced through her even now to think of it—she needed the time. She needed the distance. And maybe he did, too. He’d left to find peace, and she’d stayed to have a home. How could either of them achieve those goals if they were still clinging to something that couldn’t happen?

Knowing it had been the right decision didn’t seem to help today. There would be no postcards from Jason, no phone calls, nothing. No surprise visits—

She turned away from the door, towards the driveway, then scowled as a familiar Jaguar turned from the street and blocked in her car. She gripped the keys firmly in her hand, watching Nikolas slide out.

Not today. She didn’t want this today—or any day.

Nikolas drew off his sunglasses. “Mother said you were staying here for a while. I hope it’s all right that I’ve showed up without calling.” His lips tightened. “You’ve been ignoring them anyway.”

“I told you two months ago we had nothing left to say to each other.” Elizabeth stepped down from the porch. “I have places to be—”

“You have to let me apologize—please—” Nikolas held out a hand, and she paused. “You were right. I was jealous. I had feelings for you,” he continued, and she wrinkled her nose. “Maybe it was because of the grief we shared, the way things were out of control in my own life—it doesn’t matter. I was jealous, and I was cruel. I’m sorry—”

“I can accept your apology,” Elizabeth said reluctantly, knowing it would simply be easier to let it go. For Laura, especially. “But it doesn’t change the fact I have no interest in rekindling our friendship—”

“I can’t make a mistake?” Nikolas demanded, the remorse vanishing from his tone in a snap. “I’m not perfect—”

“Neither am I, but I also didn’t say the things you did to me. I didn’t humiliate you in front of most of the town,” Elizabeth reminded him. “You may be sorry you said them, but you can’t erase what happened. I have to live with what you said to me. What you accused me of—”

“You told me yourself you were screwing—” Nikolas closed his mouth abruptly, and she nodded.

This is what you do, Nikolas. You say what you’re really thinking in the moment, and then later you apologize because you don’t like the consequences that follow. You’re not sorry at all.”

“That’s not fair—”

“I didn’t immediately forgive you and you went right back to the anger.” She shook her head. “I deserve better.”

She went to the other side of the driveway to unlock her car. “Maybe the next time you’re angry, you’ll think before you speak. But it won’t be with me. I’m sorry, Nikolas. Accepting your apology doesn’t mean I have to forgive you.”

“You’re just bitter because Jason left town,” Nikolas shot back. He yanked his car door open. “He didn’t want you, either. You’re right. I was clearly grieving for my brother. Nothing more.”

The Jaguar’s brakes squealed as Nikolas pulled out of the driveway, then shot down the street. Elizabeth absorbed his final words, then exhaled slowly. She wanted to give Nikolas space for his grief, for his anger. Even for his jealousy. She’d miss the man she thought of as family, as a brother, as someone she could count on with Lucky gone. But that man had never existed.

Better to know now than spend years accepting the crumbs of friendship he’d offered, constantly forgiving him because he was good at apologies and nothing else.

Spencer House: Porch

Laura shaded her eyes, watching as the yellow school bus turned a corner and disappeared out of her neighborhood, carrying Lulu to school. When she turned away, she saw a Cadillac pulling up in front of the house.

“You missed Lu,” she said as Luke climbed out and his long legs ate up the distance between the sidewalk and their front steps. “The bus leaves at 8:20—”

“No, I knew that. I’ll catch her later this week to do something.” Her estranged husband slid his hands into his pockets, rocked back on his heels. “I got the notice from the court. The divorce hearing is coming up next week.”

“Yes.” Laura drew her cardigan around her more tightly. “You never filed any kind of response, so it’s moving forward—”

“I never got around to having a lawyer look at it. I don’t need to,” he added. “You said I’d get the club—” He glanced up, past her, at the two-story home she’d fallen in love with shortly after they’d returned to Port Charles. “And you should have this house. It was was a happy place for a long time, but you always loved it more.”


“I just—I called the court this morning,” he cut in. “To file a response. Uncontested. We don’t need a hearing unless you want it.”

“Uncontested,” she repeated. “Luke, have a lawyer—”

“What are you going to do to me, Laura, that I haven’t done to you? To myself?” Luke shook his head. “I walked out on this marriage. I’m the one that gave up.” His mouth twisted. “Anyway. Just thought you should hear it from me.”

“Luke—” Laura searched for the words, but then nodded. “All right, thank you. I’ll call my lawyer. We’ll cancel the hearing. I’ll let you know when the final papers will be ready.”

“Appreciate it. Tell the gumdrop I love her and we’ll do something this weekend.”

The Cadillac pulled away from the curb a few minutes later, and Laura watched him go, a bit bewildered at the entire scene—and a bit sad that her marriage, a relationship that had been at the center of her life for so long could end so quietly.

Monday, April 3, 2000

General Hospital: Hallway

Bobbie hadn’t intended to flag down her ex-husband, but then Stefan strode from a conference room and passed by the nurse’s station where she was scribbling in some charts. and she saw him out of the corner of her eye. The urge appeared fully-formed in her head.

“Stefan—” Bobbie called, following him down the hallway towards the administrator’s office. He turned, his posture stiff and unyielding, his eyes like flint. “I was wondering if you had a moment to talk about Nikolas.”

A muscle in Stefan’s cheek twitched, but he nodded and gestured towards his office door. “A moment is about all I can spare.”

“It won’t take long.” Bobbie followed him inside. “He’s had a rough year,” she told him, “which I know I don’t have to tell you. It’s just—I’ve noticed him growing angrier,” she said. Stefan frowned. “A few months ago, after the Christmas party, when he and Jason had that terrible fight—I broke up another fight between them outside of Kelly’s—”

“Jason Morgan has been gone a number of months, Barbara—”

“Yes, but—it’s not about him. It’s what Nikolas said that night. What he’s said to Elizabeth. You must have noticed that they’re no longer friends.”

Stefan’s shoulders slumped ever so slightly, and he nodded. He went around his desk, setting down the slim leather portfolio he had carried to his meeting. “I did know that. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but if he was fighting with Jason again—”

“I wish I could say it was just jealousy, but it’s more than that. Stefan, Nikolas blames Jason for Lucky’s death. And he was angry at Elizabeth for betraying his brother with someone he views as the reason Lucky is dead.”

Stefan tipped his head. “It’s still possible—”

“It was an accident—” And Bobbie closed her eyes, fisting her hand against her heart as the grief swept over her. That beautiful, bright boy would never get any older. Just like her darling BJ. “It was an accident,” she repeated. “I wish we had something—someone—to blame. But it was a terrible accident. And I’m afraid if Nikolas can’t come to terms with that soon, then his anger will swallow him whole.”

Stefan exhaled slowly, sank into his seat, suddenly looking very lost. “I was pleased,” he began slowly, “when he began to connect with his brother. This terrible feud between our families has caused Laura so much pain, and it’s left a legacy of bitterness. I wanted more for Nikolas. For his brother—I know that you doubt that—”

“I don’t,” Bobbie assured him. “I didn’t want Nikolas and Lucky to continue the feud, to carry it into another generation. It broke my brother, and it’s left you with your own burdens to bear.”

“I was at a loss when Lucky died in that fire. Senseless,” Stefan muttered. “He was such a smart young man. The best of his mother.” He shook his head, then focused on Bobbie. “I don’t know how to reach Nikolas like this. After the loss of Lucky, after the tragedy of Katherine and that child who never existed—” His hand fisted as it rested on the desk at the memory of his own dead fiancée who had used Nikolas as revenge. “Your concern is well-placed, Barbara. There is a problem. I simply lack a solution to resolve it.”

Friday, March 31, 2000

Badlands, South Dakota

Jason had flown back to Texas, taken the bike out of storage, and headed north. He’d spent most of his time since leaving Port Charles in the southwest, and he wanted a change of scenery. He needed it. He’d found a motel near the driving loop in the Badlands of South Daokta and checked in.

He rummaged through his duffel bag, his fingers sliding over the stack of postcards. Jason pulled them out, stared at them, then at the trash can in the corner of the room.

He should throw them out. These were the discards he hadn’t sent her anyway — various messages were scribbled across almost all of them, words he hadn’t deemed good enough to send. What was he going to do? Keep them forever? Drag them around the country, from state to state?

Jason tossed them on the table in the room, then found the change of clothing he’d wanted in the first place. He took a shower, changed, then headed down to the lobby to ask about a diner or somewhere else he could get something to eat.

As he waited at the counter for the clerk, his eyes caught the rack of postcards with photographs from the driving loop he was going to take in the morning. The Conata Basin, the White River Valley—

“Only four for a dollar,” an older woman chirped as she emerged from the back office. “You want some?”


It had become almost second nature to grab a few postcards wherever he stopped. He’d only sent three — he’d managed to be somewhat satisfied with those—but why keep buying them? Elizabeth didn’t want them. She’d ask him not to write.

But that wasn’t what she’d said, was it? Just like it hurt him to hear her voice, it had hurt her to see these cards. To hear from him without actually hearing from him. His fingers lingered, then he shook his head. “No.” He focused on the clerk. “No, I was just looking. Uh, is there a diner still open? Somewhere to eat?”

“Sure thing. If you go a few miles down the road, turn left—” The clerk gave him the rest of the directions, and Jason listened carefully, not wanting to get lost on the dark, unfamiliar roads. The landscape was so monotonous, and there was little scenery to break up the open spaces, just the empty roads and twists and turns.

He started for the entrance, had a hand on the door, then without thinking about it too much, returned to the desk. He dug into his back pocket for his wallet, then grabbed four cards at random.

Jason returned to his room after dinner, tossing the cards on the table, irritated with himself. He could send them to Emily, couldn’t he? Or Lila. Postcards could be for anyone. Or he could keep them for himself. He was getting better at looking at pictures, maybe from all the postcards he’d pored over for months—

But in the back of his mind somewhere, he knew the truth. He’d known it as he picked up one with Panorama Point scrawled across the front —

Saying goodbye hadn’t helped. Closing the door, walking away, promising not to write — it hadn’t solved anything. Jason still didn’t know what he was looking for, what answers or peace he hoped to find by staying away from Port Charles, but if there was some small glimmer of hope that those answers could lead him back to Elizabeth — or if she changed her mind and wanted to hear from him or join him on this trip —

He just wanted her to know that he’d never forgotten her. Even when she’d asked him to. So Jason picked up a pen with the motel’s name etched into it, and began the familiar process of trying to write her, even though there were no words for what he wanted to say and never would be.

Queen of Angels: Cemetery

The ground was still a bit chilly, but Elizabeth ignored it as she sat cross-legged in front of the dual headstone her grandparents now shared. For the last few years, only her grandfather’s name had been etched into the stone. Steven Hardy, 1917-1996. Beloved father and grandfather.

They’d removed the stone briefly to clean it up and etch in a new enscription. Audrey March Hardy. 1929-2000. Beloved mother and grandmother. Between them, Elizabeth had asked for a heart and a medical symbol to be added.

“You’re together again,” Elizabeth said, and smiled at the thought. “It helps when I get lonely. When I want to tell you both something—I remember that you’re together again just the way you should be.” She traced Audrey’s name. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be the granddaughter you wanted, but I think I like who I’m growing up to be. I didn’t always, and maybe you didn’t either.”

She picked at the patchy grass beginning to sprout over their graves. “I never fit in anywhere. Especially not back in Colorado. I’m glad I came here. It hasn’t always been easy—it’s been really hard, actually—” Her voice faltered. “Terrible things have happened. And I’ve had to lose so much. You and Gramps. Lucky.” She bit her lip. “And I’ve turned away other chances. I still think I was right to stay. That I needed these last few months on my own. I’m making a living from my art, you know. I could make it on my own. I have been,” she corrected.

Elizabeth lifted her eyes to the sky, the clouds shifting and sliding, the sun peeking out. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it since I sent him away again,” she said. “He couldn’t say. And I couldn’t go. I know that’s true. But I wasn’t as sure this time. If he’d stayed a few more days, would I have changed my mind? Maybe he would have changed his. Maybe we’re both too scared to take the chance.”

She bit her lip. “I asked him not to write again. Now I wish I hadn’t. I know why I did it, and it felt right at th time. But now…” She stared at her hands. “I don’t even have the hope of him. I didn’t realize how much I needed it until it was gone.” An errant tear slid down her cheek and she swiped at it. “I thought I needed to be in Port Charles because home should be a place. A space where you belong and feel safe. But then isn’t that another way to be afraid? You stay in one spot forever because you don’t want to lose what you have—and you throw away everything that might still be.”

She touched the stone again, then got to her feet. “I don’t want to be scared,” Elizabeth confessed. “I don’t want to run away from something that I really want because I’m terrified of how it could break me into pieces. It hurt so much after the rape to piece myself back together—to do it again after I lost Lucky. I don’t want to shatter again. But if I don’t take a chance…what kind of life would that be?”


  • Can’t wait for the next installment! Great start!

    According to Michelle on December 5, 2022
  • Sounds like Elizabeth is growing up. I hope Elizabeth goes to Sonny and has Jason get in touch with her the next time he calls Sonny.

    According to Carla P on December 8, 2022
  • these last four chapters have made me cry too much but I loved them.

    Hope they both want this and meet again soon.

    Nic is just horrible

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on December 10, 2022
  • I’m curious if Jason will send a card. Elizabeth needs him. Nic is a mess.

    According to arcoiris0502 on January 5, 2023