Nothing’s so loud
As hearing when we lie
The truth is not kind
And you’ve said neither am I
But the air outside so soft is saying everything
– All I Want, Toad the Wet Sprocket
Monday, January 17, 2000
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Alexis Davis wrinkled her nose and scratched a note in the margin of the contract for a piece of waterfront property. “What makes you think you can sell coffee better than Kelly’s?”
“It’s just a matter of time before Starbucks gets here,” Sonny offered with that easy smile and those double dimples. “They’re already in New York, closer to the city.”
She didn’t trust anyone with dimples. It seemed irresponsible.
“When they open up, I want competition already in place—”
“Yeah, yeah, I get why someone would want to open a coffee place in Port Charles,” Alexis said with a wave of her hand. “But you import coffee and run nightclubs.” And controlled all the illegal gambling and smuggling in upstate New York, but she left that unsaid.
“I need something new,” Sonny said, after a long moment. “A challenge. Something to keep me busy and distract myself. My personal life—” He pressed his lips together, looked away. “Well, it’s a cesspool.”
Alexis nodded. “Jason called a few days ago,” she confessed. “To update his will and tell me he’d be out of town. Indefinitely. I’m sure that must be difficult.”
“It’s my fault.” Sonny rose to his feet and crossed to the small table where a carafe of coffee sat on a hot plate. He refilled his cup, then hers, before returning to his seat. “He asked me to look after Elizabeth Webber.”
He had asked her to do the same, Alexis mused as she stirred sugar into her cup. He had left a substantial amount of his estate to Elizabeth, in fact. She wondered at that, though she was familiar with the rumors that had swirled at Christmas time. Nikolas had been livid over it, and she knew that his friendship with Elizabeth had been damaged, perhaps beyond repair.
“I wondered at his decision to leave now. I would have thought he’d go last year after losing Michael.”
“I’m glad he didn’t,” Sonny said, evading the question. “He met Elizabeth. If he ever comes back, it’ll be for her.” He hesitated. “The penthouse is empty across the hall now. I know you’ve been looking for a new place since you annulled your marriage to Jax.”
“I have,” Alexis said, slowly. She tilted her head. “You expecting to need a lawyer across the hall that often?”
“It’s convenient to have my lawyer close at hand when the PCPD raids my properties in the middle of the night.” Sonny offered her another charming smile. “And Justus seemed to like it.”
“He liked it enough to flee with little notice,” Alexis pointed out with another smile of her own. “But, hey, why not. I need a—”
“Get your hands off me!”
The shrill shriek boomed through the closed door as if the woman who screamed the words was in the room. Sonny closed his eyes, and Alexis grimaced.
They both knew that voice.
“I suppose someone else just learned that Jason is gone,” Alexis said dryly as the door flew open and Carly stomped on the foot of the guard attempting to hold her back.
“Where is Jason?” she demanded, her face flushed, her blonde hair disheveled. “His phone number isn’t working —”
“He’s gone,” Sonny said. He looked at the other woman, his dark eyes swirling with malevolence. “Take a hint.”
“Screw you!” Carly hissed, jabbing a finger at him.
“Already did that.”
Alexis merely raised her brows at that statement, but it only incensed Carly further. She slapped at the hands of the guard trying to pull her from the room. “Jason always comes back to me—”
Alexis leaned back in her chair. “He turned off his phone, Carly. He moved out of his penthouse. He’s gone.”
“What—” Carly bared her teeth in her direction. “What the hell do you have to do with anything?”
“Jason didn’t leave a forwarding address or a phone number for anyone to reach him,” Sonny told her. He stood up. “It’s over, Carly. You gambled and lost. He’s not going to be here to clean up your messes. You destroyed him and chased him from town. You made it clear that you would never leave him alone, so he took himself out of the equation.”
“Bullshit. There’s no way he left without leaving someone a way to get a hold of him. What about Michael?” Carly demanded. “He would never leave his son—”
“Michael is not Jason’s son,” Alexis said, quietly. “You made your choice, Carly, when you married his brother.”
“And when you slept with me,” Sonny offered with a half smirk. “I did Jason a favor.”
“He wouldn’t—” Carly swallowed hard. She took a step back. “He wouldn’t leave me. There’s nothing I could do to make him—he’s never—”
“Is it so hard to believe after everything we’ve done to Jason that he got fed up and left?” Sonny asked her, more gently his time. “He canceled his phone contract. His own sister can’t call him. Jason’s done here. And you and I did that.”
“You really—” Her shoulders slumped. “You really don’t know where he is?”
“No. He said he might call in to check every once in a while, but that’s it. He’s gone, Carly. You’re going to have to learn to survive without him.” Sonny exhaled slowly. “We both are.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Elizabeth emerged from the kitchen, a lunch order in each hand, then paused when she spied Sonny sitting at the counter, leaning back slightly, a coffee cup right side up, waiting to be filled.
She exhaled slowly, then delivered her orders. She did a check on with her other tables, and when she couldn’t find another reason to avoid it, she returned to the counter.
“What can I get you?” she asked, removing her order pad from her apron.
“Just a cup of coffee. I’m not staying long,” Sonny continued. “I just came to check in and to give you a warning.”
Elizabeth squinted, her hand shaking slightly as she poured coffee into his cup. “A warning?” Was it Sorel?
“Carly,” Sonny continued, “finally realized Jason’s phone doesn’t work anymore.” He was quiet for a long moment. “I didn’t think he’d really cancel it, but I made some calls. It’s a dead number.”
She knew that. She’d broken the night before and attempted to make contact—only for a recording to tell her it was no longer in service. “And she came to yell at you?” Elizabeth met his eyes coolly.
His mouth tightened. “You know, don’t you?”
“It was pretty clear after the last time I saw you.” Elizabeth returned the carafe to the machine. “I guess she’ll eventually come around to yell at me.”
“Maybe. She might also use it to poke at you.”
Elizabeth’s smile was thin. “That would be a mistake.”
“I know.” Sonny lifted the coffee. “I’m sorry. That whatever I did that last day—he was managing until then—”
“It didn’t help that Carly’s been showing Michael pictures of Jason, so Michael still thinks—” Maybe Elizabeth shouldn’t be sharing that information, but it was out before she could think twice.
“Christ.” Sonny set the coffee down with a clatter of porcelain against the saucer. “What happened?”
“She tried to guilt him into forgiving her by shoving Michael at him. Calling him Daddy.” Elizabeth’s throat was tight. “He knew she’d never stop. And Michael will get hurt. So, yeah, Sonny, you were part of it. But you weren’t the trigger.”
Sonny scrubbed his hands over his face. “Oh, man. That must have killed him.” He let his hand fall down to the counter and met her eyes. “I’m still surprised,” he continued, “because I didn’t think he’d leave you.”
“He might not have,” Elizabeth forced out. “I told him to go. This place, all of that tension with Carly and Michael, with you—it was killing him.” She swiped at a stray tear, irritated with herself. She wanted to be done with the crying. “So he went.”
“Ah.” Sonny pressed lips together into a thin line, his brows furrowed. “You’re stronger than you look,” he said finally. “I got the feeling that things were changing for you two. To give that up—”
“When you love someone,” Elizabeth said, acknowledging the truth that she’d not spoken to Jason, “when it’s real, you don’t hurt them just to get what you need. I’d be no different from Carly if I tried to use how we felt to keep him here. He wasn’t happy, Sonny.”
“He was with you—”
“And by the time he left, that was barely true. I hope he finds what he’s looking for.” She picked up her order pad. “I have other customers.”
Bobbie nearly didn’t open the door to her daughter, but she relented when she saw the tears staining Carly’s cheeks. She pulled the door open. ‘Carly—”
“I know—” Carly sucked in a sob. “I know you’re mad at me, but I just—” Her lip trembled. “I needed to talk to someone who knew. I c-can’t go home like this—” She swiped at her face, and Bobbie stepped back. Carly came in, but stood in the middle of the entry way, a bit lost. “He’s gone.”
“I know.” Bobbie closed the door, then turned to her. “It had to be this way, Carly. If he stayed in Port Charles, you were never going to let go.”
“I loved—” Carly pressed her hands to her face. “I know you don’t believe me. But I loved him. I did. I just—” She didn’t finish.
Bobbie took Carly by the arm and steered her into the living room. “I was like you once,” she told her daughter. “I thought about myself. What I wanted. What I needed. I pushed to make it happen. And I didn’t always—” Her lips twisted. “I never really cared about what anyone else wanted.”
“I guess it’s genetic,” Carly said glumly. She plopped down on the sofa, stared at the carpet. “I loved him. I still do. I just…I don’t know. I can’t stop hurting him. I didn’t think—” She chewed on her lip. “I really thought,” she continued, her voice small, “that I was doing the right thing. That Jason and I would be a family again, and Michael needed to know how much Jason loved him. That he didn’t lose that connection. I didn’t do it to hurt him. Or hurt Michael—”
“You have to let go of that dream, Carly,” Bobbie said, gently. She sat next to her, waiting for Carly’s dark eyes to focus on her. “Jason cared about you. Maybe he even loved you. But you did something to make him angry. To hurt him so deeply that he walked away. I have my thoughts about what it is—”
“Sonny. I—” Carly closed her eyes, tears clinging to her lashes. “I was so angry. Everything was taking longer than I thought it would. I thought I could get rid of AJ in a few months, but it just kept going and Jason…I could feel him slipping away…It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.”
“He had a right to move on, Carly. To not be alone. You went home every night to your husband and son.”
“I saw him with that stupid girl. That silly little nothing—” Carly’s mouth tightened, and her eyes flashed. “He’s got a weakness for girls like that. Robin. I got rid of her. I waited that out, and I won—”
Bobbie sighed heavily. “Carly—”
“But this—this was different. He was dancing with her. And I just—I went to Sonny to find out what was going on. And he told me it was real. That Jason deserved someone nice. Someone who wasn’t me—and I was so mad—” She closed her eyes. “Because I knew it was true. You know? I’m not stupid. Jason deserves better. But I don’t care. I wanted him anyway. But I was mad at Sonny for seeing it, and scared that Jason did, too, and I just wanted to—” She looked out the window. “Jason came in. Saw us. He must have been shot already. He just left, and it all fell apart. I kept trying to fix it, but I just made him angrier, and I thought if I showed him that Michael still loved him, still needed him, he’d come around—”
“He’s gone, Carly,” Bobbie told her when Carly stopped talking.
“He canceled his phone number. Almost since the day I got to Port Charles, I’ve been able to count on Jason.” Carly looked at her mother. “You knew he was already gone. Elizabeth told you, didn’t she? Or maybe Jason.”
“Elizabeth told me,” Bobbie confirmed. “Yesterday when she came to work.”
“Ironic, huh?” Carly snorted, then got to her feet, swiping away the remaining tears. “I destroyed the last piece of love Jason had for me over a girl that didn’t even matter. Because he left her, too.”
Bobbie left that statement unchallenged. Better for Carly to think Elizabeth was someone else Jason had left. Maybe then Carly might leave her alone. “You have a husband and a son, Carly. Figure out how to make it work. It’s time to grow up.”
“You said that a few days ago,” Carly said. “But you’re right. Jason’s gone. I’m going to have to take care of myself.”
Monday, February 7, 2000
Jason stopped at the edge of the hiking trail, just a few yards from the cliff face where Camelback Mountain overlooked a piece of the city. The air was thinner and cooler than it had been on the ground. He didn’t feel temperature that well, but he knew how to recognize his body’s responses.
It had been strange to get to the southern part of the country and away from the winters of New York. People weren’t all bundled up and he hadn’t seen any snow since leaving—
Abruptly, the memory of sitting in the studio in December, Elizabeth checking his temperature by resting her cheek against his forehead—and the sweet, fresh smell of snow radiating from her—
Jason shook his head, shoving the memory away. Two weeks since he’d left and the flashes should be fading. He shouldn’t even be having them — he’d never really thought in visuals or pictures, not since the accident. It wasn’t fair that his brain would finally recover that ability and use it against him this way—
He had a stack of postcards — he’d only sent the one in Miami — but he’d kept buying them, thinking he’d find a way to write something simple. He hadn’t liked just scrawling his name and sending it. But he hadn’t been happy with anything else. Now he just had a growing collection of postcards, none of which he could ever show anyone.
He should stop. If he didn’t buy them anymore, then maybe it would help to stop thinking about her.
Even now, hiking a trail more than two thousand miles away from Port Charles, the studio, and Elizabeth, Jason found himself wondering how she’d paint this landscape. What colors she’d use and what she would hum while she did it—
He scowled at himself, then continued up the mountain, determined this would be the last time he’d think about Elizabeth.
Luke’s legs dropped from the desk when Laura peeked around the edge of his door. He hastily shoved his cigar into the ashtray and got to his feet. “Hey. Is everything okay? Lu—”
“In school. Everything’s fine. I would have called, but—I know you’re usually here this time of day.” She bit her lip, then set her purse on Luke’s desk. “I didn’t ask—you’re using the rooms upstairs?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah. For now. I don’t need much. Never did. But I’d like to see about getting a place with a room for Lu. I mean—” He cleared his throat.”Did you—you came by for a reason, I guess.”
“I did.” Laura hesitated, then reached inside her bag for the manila envelope. “This last year—these last four years, really,” she corrected, “have me thinking about what I want the rest of my life to look like. And I was recently reminded that life goes on. Even when I didn’t always want it to.” She set the envelope down. “We’ve been separated for over a year, Luke. It’s time to make some decisions.”
He stared at the envelope, then exhaled slowly. “I don’t know why I’m so surprised,” he said finally. “I’m the one who left.” He reached for them. “Divorce papers.”
“I had them drawn up a while ago. When you were out of town and you missed Lulu’s birthday.” He’d missed Lucky’s birthday as well — both their kids had been born in the summer— but she could forgive that. Bu Lulu was still with them and deserved so much more from them.
“Yeah. Yeah, I know I messed that up pretty good.”
“I didn’t file,” Laura continued. “Not then. But I did today.” He met her eyes. “I just came from the courthouse. It’s pretty straightforward. You get the club, and I get the house. I’ll take custody of Lulu and you can have visitation. As often as you’d like. Or if you want something more official, we can do that.”
Luke stared at the envelope. “Seems fair,” he said dully.
“All right. Well, you can have a lawyer look it over. File a response. Or—whatever you want.” She picked her purse up, wondering why she felt like the bad guy. He’d left her. Was she supposed to twist in the wind until he made the decisions?
That was what she’d always done. She couldn’t keep doing that. Elizabeth’s visit a few days ago had reminded Laura that she hadn’t died in that fire either, and just like Elizabeth, Laura had a right to the rest of her life.
Starting with closing this chapter.
Elizabeth rifled through the stack of mail she’d grabbed from downstairs, grimacing at the junk mail and advertisements. She didn’t see the person standing in front of her door until she nearly ran into her.
“Oh. Gram—” Elizabeth cleared her throat, pressing her mail against her chest. “How long have you been waiting?” she asked cautiously. She hadn’t seen her grandmother since the Christmas Party, and had avoided her phone calls.
“Just a few minutes. I called Kelly’s and Tammy told me what time your shift was finishing.” Audrey Hardy checked her watch. “I only have a few minutes before I have to be at the hospital, but I was hoping we could make some plans to get together.”
Elizabeth dumped her mail into the bag over her shoulder and took out her keys. “You didn’t have to come all the way down here for that.”
Audrey sighed. “I think we both know I did. You haven’t returned my phone calls.”
“No, I haven’t,” Elizabeth admitted. “Not since the party.” Or after the message Audrey had left after her tuition money for PCU had been returned when Elizabeth had dropped out. “We haven’t really been seeing eye to eye.”
“And that’s partially my fault.”
“Partially,” Elizabeth repeated. She shook her head. “Gram—”
“I was surprised,” Audrey cut in, impatiently. “I didn’t even realize you knew Jason Morgan, and he’s in this studio, half-dressed, alone—what was I supposed to do? And before you talk about being an adult—” she held up a finger, and Elizabeth closed her mouth. “You’d turned eighteen six weeks earlier. You don’t cross some magic line simply because the law says so, and I’ve been raising you as my own child for years. Longer if we count the summers you and your siblings came to visit.” She sighed, then rubbed her forehead. “I know you and Steve always got along better, and I’ve never known quite how to handle you, but I’ve tried, Elizabeth. You must believe that.”
“I do,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “And it’s more than my parents have done.” She hesitated. “All right, when you put it that way, I can understand why you were so upset. It’s just—” She met her grandmother’s worried eyes. “Maybe I didn’t cross that magic line on November 1, Gram, but I think we both know I haven’t really been a kid in a long time either.”
“No.” Audrey closed her eyes, her voice wavering as she continued. “Not since that terrible night. I know, darling.” She opened her eyes. “And I was upset when you dropped out of PCU, but I realize that I can’t push you into living the dreams I have for you. You’re clearly capable of supporting yourself, and I can understand not wanting to waste the money when you’re not sure what you want.”
“It’s just—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I do know what I want. I just don’t know how to get there. I know PCU isn’t the right place. I want my art. And between classes and work, there wasn’t space for it.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Maybe I can’t make it work, and I’ll need another plan. But right now, it’s what I want to focus on.”
“All right, I can support that. I love you, my darling,” Audrey said, “and I want the best for you. I know that Jason has left town—” When she saw Elizabeth’s face, she added, “That’s not why I’m here. Not that way. I worried for you. Losing Lucky, then having someone else you care for leave.”
“I’m all right. Jason and I talked, and it was for the best. I miss him, but he had to do what was right for him. He asked me to go with him,” Elizabeth added, and Audrey’s eyes widened. “But I said no. It wasn’t right for me. Not now, anyway. I need to be on my own for a while. Not like I was last year. I just…” She frowned, trying to find the words. “I was in a fog for so long. Putting one foot in front of the other, stuck in the past. I was the girl who was raped, I was the girl who lost Lucky. I want time to find out who I’m going to be when it’s only me.”
Audrey stepped forward and they embraced, Elizabeth clinging tightly. “I look forward to watching you shine and become who I’ve always known you to be.” Audrey pulled back, framing Elizabeth’s face with her hands. “A wonderful young woman with a big heart, a smart mouth, and a bright future ahead of her.” She made a face. “I really do have to go.”
“I’ll call you about lunch,” Elizabeth promised, hugging her grandmother one more time. She watched Audrey disappear down the hall, then went inside the studio.
She dumped out her mail, chucking the junk—she nearly missed the small square postcard, tucked between the papers of the circular from the local grocery store.
But she recognized the handwriting and plucked it from the pile, letting everything else fall to the floor. There was nothing more than her address written on one half, and his name scrawled on the other. Elizabeth traced the letters of his name—Jason. Then looked at the other side.
Welcome to Miami, Florida was emblazoned in bright lime green across a piece of folk art. He’d picked a postcard with a painting on it, she thought, wondering if that meant anything. Why had he sent it at all? There was no message. Nothing else she could cling to—
Except it had been dated January 14. The Friday he’d left. But it hadn’t been postmarked until a few days ago. He’d written her the day he left, but hadn’t sent it. What did that mean? Did it mean anything?
Would there be more postcards? A letter? A phone call— Elizabeth closed her eyes, took a deep breath. No. She wouldn’t do this to herself. Jason hadn’t made any promises, and she wasn’t going to look for reasons to hope. If he stayed in contact, all right. But one postcard, mailed a week ago, didn’t mean anything.