They say everything is temporary
Who the hell are they anyways
I wanna know where does love go to die
Is it some sad empty castle in the skies?
Did we just shoot too high and spoil like wine?
– But We Lost It, P!nk
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Mercy Hospital: Meeting Room
Lucky grimaced as he sat down in the folding chair, trying to adjust the way he was sitting until his back wasn’t screaming in pain. He took a deep breath and finally found a bearable position.
The chairs had been arranged in a semi-circle, just like he’d seen on television, and the people that filled them mostly looked normal. There were even a few women, sipping the terrible coffee he’d passed on.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. If Lucky could find a way to get control of his anger, to stop himself from lashing out at Elizabeth—
Maybe she’d stop flinching every time he came near. She’d done that before—years ago—after her rape. It had taken months before he could touch her on the shoulder or the elbow without her reacting in disgust—
He swallowed hard. He didn’t like reminding himself that Elizabeth had good reason to flinch from him now.
“The way this works,” the guy in charge said as he sat down a few chairs down from Lucky, “is that we introduce ourselves. First names only. And tell us why you’re here. What kind of problems you’re having.”
His smile was relaxed as he continued, “My name is Greg. I’m facilitating this meeting, but I’ve had my own anger management problems in the past. I didn’t know how to let the little stuff slide off my back, and I made everyone else hate being around me. One day, I got cut off on the highway. Instead of just letting it go, I followed the car until it parked in a residential neighborhood. I was about to get out and—” Greg shook his head with a rueful laugh. “I’d like to think I was just going to yell at him, but I’m sure I would have thrown a punch. I didn’t because a little girl ran up to him and hugged him.”
Lucky grimaced. He’d expected something worse than that, but maybe one of the others would have a story that would feel…more like his. He couldn’t be the only person who’d actually take his anger out on someone else.
Greg was quiet for a moment. “I sat in my car and stared at them for a long moment, and I realized that I had a problem. I had to get it under control. So I went to therapy.” He looked at the next guy, two seats away from Lucky. “What about you?”
Lucky listened as one man talked about how he’d lost it in a meeting at work and cursed out his supervisor—then the woman next to him admitted that she’d done something similar. None of these people had acted out violently.
But Elizabeth had asked him to do this—to give this a real try—and he wanted to prove to her that she was right to trust him. That he was still the guy who had slept on the floor and protected her.
“Uh, I’m Lucky.” He grimaced. “It’s a nickname my parents gave me when I was a kid—short for Lucas. I don’t—” He exhaled slowly. “I don’t feel lucky right now. I—I got married last fall. We’ve been together off and on since we were teenagers. Right after the wedding, I hurt my back. And then…I recently hurt it again.”
With a sour taste in his stomach, Lucky continued, “I couldn’t work, and I was always in pain. She stuck with me. She supported me when my paycheck was cut in half because I wasn’t on active duty anymore—” His throat tightened. “I just—I started to feel angry all the time. Just pissed off because this wasn’t the way my life was supposed to be. She was taking care of me, and it was supposed to be the other way around. That’s how it used to be—I used to protect her, keep her safe—”
He stopped, took a deep breath. “We’ve been arguing for months. I mean, I think I was arguing more. I was always angry, and she was always tired from work. And then one night, I accidentally pushed her.”
Lucky stared down at the gray, dirty carpet. “I didn’t mean it. She was behind me, and I just—I flung out my hand—” He stopped because, oh, God, that was a lie. He knew it. He’d always known it. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, hadn’t meant to shove her into the wall—
But he had known she was behind him, that she was trying to stop him from pouring out the medicine that Cameron needed—medicine that Jason Morgan could afford to buy but Lucky couldn’t—and he’d just wanted her to shut the hell up and get away from him—
He looked up, looked at Greg. “I was angry at her. And I took it out on her. I promised her it would stop. It has stopped. But I don’t know how to stop being angry.”
“Okay,” Greg managed a smile. “Thanks for sharing. Next?”
They continued introducing themselves, but Lucky realized that no one else shared a story similar to his—there were no other husbands, wives, boyfriends, or girlfriends—no other cases of domestic abuse.
He was the only person in the room that had taken their anger out on another person violently— or, Lucky told himself, the only one who dared to admit it. That was something, wasn’t it?
After the meeting, as Lucky struggled to get his feet, Greg came over to him. “Lucky, can you stay for a few minutes? I wanted to talk to you.”
“Uh, yeah, okay—” Using his cane, he followed Greg over to a corner of the room.
“Listen,” Greg began as he folded his arms. “I think it’s good that you’re here, that you’re ready to make a change. I can’t tell you how many guys I’ve seen come through this program who claim they have an anger problem but don’t want to admit the real reason they’re looking for help—”
Lucky frowned at him. “Real reason?”
“Domestic abuse,” Greg said. “Lucky, you have an anger problem, that’s true, but you’re here because you’ve hurt your wife, aren’t you?”
His stomach pitched and rolled, but Lucky nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s why I’m here. I never—I never punched or slapped her. But I pushed her. I shoved her. And she got hurt—” He saw Greg grimace. “What? I can’t be fixed?”
“I didn’t say that,” Greg told him. “But I think this isn’t the right place for you. What you need is a different kind of counseling. You and your wife need to be intensive therapy to deal with this—”
“But it never happened before,” Lucky told him. “Let me—look, I didn’t get into it during the meeting, but let me just—let me explain. I’ve known my wife since we were teenagers. She—she got hurt by someone else, and I found her that night—she was too scared, but she let me help her. That’s how we fell in love—this isn’t who I am—” His throat tightened. “This isn’t me.”
“I’m glad that you see that,” Greg said. “And it’s true, a lot of anger problems start with a traumatic incident like an injury, but if what you want to do is save your marriage, this isn’t going to do it. You’re more than welcome to work on your anger, but—” He hesitated. “This isn’t the place to resolve domestic abuse problems.”
Lucky swallowed hard. “We can’t go to counseling,” he said finally. “I can’t go to a therapist with her.”
Greg tipped his head to the side, squinting slightly. “Why? If she’s willing to work with you, try to resolve it—”
Lucky looked away, looked around the room that was now empty. “I don’t think it’ll work,” he admitted, finally. “She—while this was happening, she reconnected with an old boyfriend.”
Greg was quiet for a long moment, then nodded. “Which did not help your anger problems, I’m guessing.”
“I—” Lucky fisted his free hand at his side. “I know why she did it. I was terrible to her. I wasn’t being fair, and she was working hard to support us, to support her son—”
“You didn’t mention a son,” Greg said.
Lucky stared at him for a long moment. “I—I didn’t—” Of course, he hadn’t, he thought. He didn’t think about Cameron much at all. He didn’t need to these days since he was no longer expected to pick him up after daycare. Even Audrey wasn’t looking after the kid anymore. Cameron spent all his time with Bobbie or Carly.
“He’s two. Almost two,” Lucky corrected. “He’s not mine, though. He’s from another relationship—”
“The old boyfriend?”
“No—” Lucky drew his brows together. “No. From someone else. He’s dead. He doesn’t matter. The kid’s father, I mean.”
“Right,” Greg said. “Lucky, what you’re looking for—the answers you’re trying to find, the problem you’re trying to fix—it’s not going to happen in this group.”
“Have you taken your anger out on anyone else?” Greg pushed. “Have you pushed around any friends? A family member?”
Lucky hesitated. “No.”
“You aren’t going to fix what you need to fix without your wife in the room.” Greg walked over to a table and scribbled something down on a piece of paper. He held it out. “This is the name of a good therapist, right here at Mercy. You should give him a call, set up something with your wife.”
“But you can’t help me.”
“We might be able to help you manage some of the anger, Lucky, but it’s not going to change the fact that you committed an act of violence against your wife.” Greg looked at him. “And if you’re telling me she was a victim of violence once before, I think your problem might be worse than you’re willing to admit to yourself. You need to ask yourself why you think this can’t be fixed in counseling.”
Lucky left then, crumbling up the paper and tossing it in the trash can near the elevator. He didn’t need to ask himself why they couldn’t go to counseling. If they went to counseling, a therapist might ask Elizabeth about her affair with Jason.
The last thing Lucky or Elizabeth needed to think about was Jason Morgan. He’d get angry again, and she might—
She might decide she’d made a mistake.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Emily leaned against the bar and looked back over at the table where she and her friends were sitting. “It’s nice to see Lucky with a smile on his face,” she said to Elizabeth.
“Yeah.” Elizabeth waited for Claude, the bartender, to look at them. “Hey, can we get a pitcher of Rolling Rock and two strawberry margaritas?” she asked.
“Sure thing, sweetheart. You want me to send them over, or do you want to wait?” Claude offered as he tossed a towel over his shoulder.
“We’ll wait,” Elizabeth said. She looked at Emily with a sheepish smile. “I need a break from Jesse.”
“Yeah, he really is a dickhead, isn’t he?” Emily rolled her eyes. “Why did you invite him? He hates you and doesn’t mind showing it.”
“Because Jesse is Lucky’s partner, and Lulu is Maxie’s friend.” Elizabeth nodded at her younger sister-in-law, who was telling an enthusiastic story to the rest of the table. Lulu poked her brother in the shoulder, and Lucky rolled his eyes, laughing. “Lulu has been good for Lucky.”
“It’s hard to be miserable around someone who doesn’t take anything seriously,” Emily agreed. “I’m glad Lu could come back, and I guess Jesse will come around. It’s not like you’ll get Patrick and Robin out for drinks with Lucky any time soon. Patrick hates him.” She hesitated. “But things are better, right? Lucky started anger management, right?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth popped a pretzel in her mouth. “He did. Thursday was his first session. He didn’t really want to talk about it much.” She hesitated. Lucky had been quiet when he’d returned home. She’d thought the sessions might be a lot for him, but she’d hoped he’d want to talk about them. “Emily—”
“Drinks up, ladies.” Claude set the pitcher and margaritas down. “Tossed it on the tab.”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth said. She picked up the pitcher. “Come on.”
“I still think I should get to drink,” Lulu was saying as Elizabeth and Emily set down the drinks. She wrinkled her nose. “I’m the only one who can’t—”
“You’re the only one who’s underage,” Lucky reminded her. “And you will be until…” He frowned. “Wait, when is your birthday again?”
Lulu punched him in the shoulder, but she laughed. “August 8, as you damn well know, and I’m gonna expect a big party to make up for that!”
“Here’s your drink, Maxie,” Emily said, sliding the margarita to her. Elizabeth set the pitcher down. “So, what did we miss?”
“Just Lulu telling Jesse about some stupid high school party,” Maxie arched her brows at Lulu, who offered an innocent smile. “Some things shouldn’t be spoken of.”
“Hey, what’s the point of high school if you don’t have a few regrets?” Elizabeth said, forcing a smile. “I mean, how many English classes did we ditch, Lucky?”
“Uh, not as many as you wish we had,” Lucky replied. He grinned at her, his eyes sparkling at the memory. “You thought running away from home meant no homework.”
“Well, excuse me if I thought something good would come from sleeping under the docks,” she retorted. She looked at Jesse. “What about you? Any crazy stories from high school?”
“We talked about me,” Jesse said shortly. “You weren’t here.” He poured himself another beer, then set the pitcher down. The table fell into an awkward silence. He looked past Elizabeth to Lucky. “You lived in Canada as a kid, didn’t you? What was that like?”
Lucky cleared his throat. “Uh, nothing special. Things didn’t get interesting for me until I moved to Port Charles.”
“Yeah, that’s when you started running away from home,” Lulu said. “Didn’t you and Em run away, too?”
Emily laughed, but the sound was a little forced. “Yeah, when I first came to live with the Quartermaines. Oh, my God, Elizabeth, do you remember the day we met?”
Elizabeth forced a smile, trying to cover how irritated she was that Jesse had, again, spoken rudely to her, and Lucky had said nothing. But Lucky was really trying, and it was fun to talk about the old times, the good memories. He was happy when they talked about those times.
But he didn’t want to talk about anything after the fire. It was as if they’d never made another good memory after Helena had kidnapped him. She enjoyed reminiscing, but it felt sad and a bit empty to spend hours talking about things that had happened nearly a decade ago and not feel comfortable enough to talk about anything that had happened to her lately.
She was going to start observing surgeries in a few weeks, Patrick had told her. Elizabeth had been so excited to be leaving behind paperwork and post-op in the ICU. She’d come home to tell Lucky, but he’d just smiled thinly and told her that was great and left for physical therapy.
“Elizabeth?” Lu prompted. She kicked her under the table. “Where’d you go? Emily asked you a question.”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Yeah, Em, I remember. We were at the cafeteria, and it was your first day back.” Elizabeth took a deep breath and smiled at Lucky, but he was frowning at her now as if irritated that she’d drifted away during their conversation. “You were there, Lucky. Some girls were making fun of Emily, and I knew you were going to jump in, so I did it first.” Her smile felt thin as she stretched her lips even more. “I thought it would impress you.”
Jesse snorted. “So, the first nice thing you did for Emily was a lie? Shocking.” He sipped his beer.
“Well, yeah, but you were different back then, Elizabeth,” Lucky said, hurrying to cover for his friend. Lulu was glaring at Jesse, and even Maxie looked like she was starting to lose patience.
Elizabeth frowned at Lucky. “Different? What do you mean?”
“You were…” Lucky hesitated, sat back with a grimace. “Well, it was before,” he said lamely. “You were Lizzie. Remember?”
“No,” Elizabeth said softly. “I don’t.” Because she was still Lizzie. She would always be that brash, impulsive teenager who’d swept into town with a chip on her shoulder the size of Colorado. She’d often laughed with Emily or Lucky about her Lizzie side—
She’d just never thought Lucky agreed with her. Or thought of them as separate people.
“I don’t remember anyone ever calling you Lizzie,” Maxie said, with an air of desperation. “No one even calls you Liz. What’s that about?”
“My family used to call me that. It drove me crazy.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ears. “Because it usually came at the end of a sentence that was about my behavior or grades.”
“Oh, so, like it’s a response thing. You hear Lizzie, and you think your mom or dad is right there, ready to snark at you.” Maxie nodded. “Yeah, I got that. If my mother calls me Maximiliana, I know that I am in serious trouble—”
“Or when I hear Lesley Lu—” Lulu said brightly.
“But you were different before,” Lucky insisted, and they all looked at him. “When you were younger. You’re—you’re nicer now. Better.” And now he didn’t look as happy. He looked irritated, his brows furrowed together with a twitch in his cheek. “Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean—”
“Lucky, shut up,” Lulu told her brother, widening her eyes to make her point.
“Stay out of this, Lulu,” Lucky shot back. He looked back at Elizabeth, who just met his eyes, her lips pressed together. “I mean, think of the crap you pulled with Nikolas and Sarah—”
“I remember, Lucky,” she said flatly. She picked up her margarita and sipped it. “But that was always me. I’m older now, but I’m still Lizzie Webber.” She arched a brow. “I’ll always be Lizzie Webber.”
Lucky scowled and sat back in his chair, grimacing as his back must have shifted in the wrong way. “This is stupid.”
“Yeah, it is,” Maxie said, brightly. “It’s just a nickname.” She tossed back the last of her margarita. “I need another drink.” She got to her feet, grabbed Lulu by her arm. “Let’s go. You can go practice ordering.”
Jesse poured himself another beer—the only person at the table who’d finished his first round from the pitcher. “Just seems like Elizabeth is admitting she’s still a bitch.”
“You know what—” Emily began hotly, but Elizabeth put a hand on her arm and looked at her husband. When he said nothing to Jesse, she pursed her lips and nodded. He was never going to say anything.
She arched a brow. “Jesse?”
When the younger man met her eyes, a smug smirk on her lips, she leaned forward. “You know what I like about you?”
“Absolutely nothing.” She paused. “Go fuck yourself.” Jesse scowled, and Elizabeth picked up her margarita. She sipped it, feeling a sense of triumph. Asshole.
“I just don’t know why you can’t admit that you’re not Lizzie anymore,” Lucky said, completely ignoring the byplay—and Elizabeth had had it.
“That’s what you meant that day back in the hospital,” she said. He frowned at her. “When you asked where that girl went—you really did hate Lizzie Webber, and all this time—all this time, you’ve been acting like that girl died the night Tom Baker pulled me into the bushes—”
“No, that’s not—” Lucky exhaled slowly. “No. That’s not what I meant, Elizabeth. I’m—” His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. “I’m sorry if that’s how it sounds. But you know I’m not imagining things. You were different after.”
“Lucky,” Emily murmured. “This really isn’t—”
“I was different after that night.” Elizabeth twisted her wedding ring on her hand, wishing she hadn’t picked this fight. Lucky wasn’t wrong, but he also didn’t get it. And maybe she was making a big deal out of nothing. But it felt like it mattered. “I guess I didn’t realize how important that was to you.”
Lucky frowned. “Of course it was. That’s who I fell in love with—”
Emily closed her eyes. “Oh, you idiot—”
“Got it.” Elizabeth got to her feet, tossed back the last of her margarita, and picked up her purse. “I’m going to call a cab home. Good night.”
Luke’s: Parking Lot
Jason strode towards the entrance of the bar, frowning as he thought about seeing Luke Spencer. He hadn’t seen the older man since the kidnapping—since Luke had convinced Elizabeth to stay with Lucky. He and Sonny didn’t have a lot to do with Luke’s club these days, not since Sonny had sold Luke his interest in the club after the garage fire years ago—
But Luke’s still operated in the Escobar territory, and Jason still had an obligation to check in with the old man to make sure they were sticking to the deal.
Just as he reached the door, it swung open and Elizabeth nearly barreled into him. Not realizing who it was at first, he put his hands out to stop her from knocking him over— “Whoa—”
“Watch where—” She bit off as his hands brushed her shoulders, left bare by the filmy tank top she was wearing over a pair of tight jeans, a jacket slung over her arm. “Oh. Sorry.”
“Sorry.” Like he’d touched a live wire, Jason drew his hands back. He looked at her, trying to focus on any detail he could in the dim lighting outside the club. It had been so long since he’d seen her—
She was clearly dressed for a night out—she’d done something to her eyes so that they looked darker, her lips were a ruby red. He looked past her, grimacing. “Are you—”
“I should go,” Elizabeth said. “I’m sorry. I just—” She took a deep breath because her voice faltered for just a moment. “I just had a fight with Lucky, and while I doubt he’s going to storm after me, he might. So I’m going to go call a cab—”
Jason exhaled slowly, irritated with himself as she started past him. He reached out, his fingers brushing her elbow. “Wait, I don’t—” He shook his head. “I don’t want you calling a cab and waiting out here alone—”
“I—” She looked back at him, their eyes meeting for a moment as her voice faltered. “That’s not a good idea,” she said, finally.
“Elizabeth, wait, I’ll drive—” Emily stopped short when she saw the two of them outside the entrance. The door swung shut behind her. “Oh. Hey. Jase.”
“Hey, Emily.” He slid his hands into his pockets. Stepped back. “Ah, I have to meet with Luke. I should—I’ll use the back entrance.”
Without another look at either of them, he walked around the corner of the building and disappeared.
Emily arched a brow at Elizabeth. “Thank God it was me that came out just then. You have terrible timing—”
“I didn’t plan for him to be out here—the universe just hates me—” Elizabeth shook her head. “Never mind. I just want to go home—”
“Elizabeth—” Emily pressed her lips together. “You know that’s not what Lucky meant, right? I mean—I know it sounded like he only fell in love with you because of the rape, but—”
“It—I know he doesn’t mean it that way. But I also know he’s not wrong. The person I was after the rape? He fell in love with her. I was quiet, I was withdrawn. And I didn’t have the energy to go after anyone, except Nikolas. Which didn’t bother him then. Lucky fell in love with that girl.”
Elizabeth looked away. “I always knew that. I guess I thought we fell in love again with the people we grew up to be.”
“I just want to go home, Em.”
“No, don’t—” Elizabeth nearly swatted Emily’s hand on her shoulder, obviously meant to comfort her. She curled her hand into a fist instead, jerking away. “Don’t. Don’t pretend I’m not right. He couldn’t stand Lizzie Webber. No one could.”
Emily pressed her lips together, then sighed. She said nothing.
“I just—I had to be that girl again after the fire,” Elizabeth told her. “I had to find Lizzie again or I wasn’t going to make it. And that’s—” She inhaled sharply. “Oh my God.” She pressed her fingers to her forehead. “I always thought—”
“I thought Lucky put me back together after the rape—I thought it was him—but I did it.” Elizabeth looked at her best friend, as tears slid down her face. “I finished it. Because after Lucky died I was alone, and I had to figure out how to survive. So I did it. I survived. And I only did that because I remembered who I was. That I was strong.” She pressed a fist to her mouth as she choked back a sob.
“You’re one of the strongest women I know—”
“I’ve been killing myself to be that girl again, to be the girl he fell in love with but—” Her breath was shaky as she tried to put it into words. “But he’s not even trying to love who I am today. Why? What’s so wrong with her?”
“You know the answer to that—” Emily tucked a piece of hair back behind Elizabeth’s ear. “You know there’s nothing wrong. I told you, it’s not too late—”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth looked back towards the corner where Jason had disappeared. “Yeah, it is—”
“I wanted to save the boy so much—the boy who never, in a million years, would love me today—” Her voice broke. “I wanted to save him so much that I threw away a man who already did.” Elizabeth pressed her hands to her eyes. “Oh, God, Em, what did I do—”
Her shoulders continued to shake as Emily drew her into a fierce hug.
“It’s not too late,” Emily repeated. “We can fix this—”
“No—” Elizabeth took a deep breath, then dragged her hands through her hair. “No. Jason doesn’t deserve this. I need—I need to finish what I started and then I need to go. I need to stop living in the past. I just need to stop.” She sighed. “I also need a ride home.”
“Please, Emily. I can’t—Not right now.”
Luke scowled when Jason came through the door. “Hell, I forgot you were coming tonight.” He got to his feet and shut the door behind him. “My boy didn’t see you, did he?”
“No. I ran into Elizabeth on the way out of the bar, and she told me he was in here. I came through the back.” Jason held up a hand as Luke opened his mouth. “I didn’t know she’d be here. It was just bad timing. She had a fight with Lucky and left.”
“A fight—” Luke sighed, his shoulders slumping. “Damn it. It was going better. He was laughing the last time I went out there.” He went back to his desk, scowled at Jason again. “You’re not helping, Morgan—”
“I’m not doing anything,” Jason said flatly. “We had a business meeting. It’s not my fault you didn’t remember.” He fisted his hands at his side.
Luke narrowed his eyes. “You’re pissed at me, so I guess you know that I’m the one that convinced Liz to stay.” He nodded. “Didn’t think she’d tell you that—”
“She didn’t. And—” Forcing himself to take a breath. “It’s none of my business. She doesn’t want it to be, so it’s not—”
“Uh-huh.” Luke nodded slowly. “Never knew you to lie to anyone, even yourself. Guess things change—” He cleared his throat when Jason just glared at him. “Anyway, let’s just talk about the Escobars.”
Saturday, May 6, 2006
“Cameron, careful!” Elizabeth laughed at her son as he charged at Morgan, sending them both into the ball pit set up in the backyard. “Don’t hurt him—”
“I think it might be impossible to bruise that kid,” Carly said dryly as she stepped up next to Elizabeth. “Everything going okay? With the party, I mean?”
Elizabeth nodded, looking around at the tables and games Bobbie and Lucas had helped her set up for Cameron in Bobbie’s backyard. Luke had offered the Spencer house, but the Brownstone was more familiar to Cameron these days. Elizabeth was just happy to see so many people here, enjoying Cameron on his special day.
Leticia had brought Michael and Morgan earlier while Carly was at work, Emily had picked up Kristina and Molly from Alexis’s house so that there would be more kids. Lulu had convinced Maxie, Dillon, and Georgie to help run some of the games. Dillon had decided to be the official photographer and was walking around with his digital camera to take candids.
Bobbie had arranged a birthday cake in the shape of Spiderman. Luke had driven to Rochester to get, he’d informed her with a roll of his eyes. But her baby had the perfect birthday party—
Even if Lucky and Jesse had spent nearly the entire time in the kitchen, drinking. She forced a smile back on her face and looked back at Carly. “Imagine, Little John will be here running with them next year.”
“Yeah, God, he’s growing so fast,” Carly murmured. “Jax said he would bring him by maybe later, but he was napping when I left the hotel. And you know—”
“Never disturb a sleeping baby,” Elizabeth finished. “Literally, the first lesson any parent learns.”
“Can you—can you come over to my car for a minute?” Carly asked. “Mama!” She raised her voice, causing Bobbie to turn away from where she’d been speaking to Felicia and Mac. “I’m going to take Elizabeth for a minute. Don’t let the kids die!”
“Real nice,” Bobbie called back.
Carly cackled as she and Elizabeth walked around the corner of the house and headed for the street where Carly’s SUV was parked. “I figured you wouldn’t want me to bring this out just yet or do this in front of people.”
Elizabeth frowned as Carly pressed the remote to lift the back of the car. Then her face brightened. “Chuggin’ Charlie! Where did you—” She exhaled slowly, looked at Carly who just stared back at her blandly. “How did he know?”
“It’s not like Jason comes over my house all the time,” Carly said slowly. “But he visits the boys, and he’s been over a few times when Cameron has—”
“I know. Cam always tells me. He really—” Elizabeth sighed. “He really likes Jason.”
“I know. He invited Jason today, but Jason told him he had to work. So instead, he stayed for dinner on Thursday—when I had him overnight for the night shift?” Carly reminded her. “I got him a cake because it was his actual birthday—”
“I know. He was excited because he got two cakes for his second birthday—”
“Joke’s on me,” Carly said with a roll of her eyes. “Morgan thinks he’ll get three cakes in November, and this is just the kind of thing he’ll remember.” She sighed. “Anyway, Cam told Jason over dinner this was the only toy he really wanted. So I guess Jason made a few phone calls.”
Elizabeth stared at the blue train that had been at the top of Cameron’s birthday list. She’d looked for weeks—so had her grandmother and Bobbie—even Carly and Lulu had made a few calls. But Jason had listened to Cameron and located one for him within two days.
“I thought maybe we could keep it at my house for Cameron for a while,” Carly said when Elizabeth said nothing. “Cameron doesn’t tell Lucky about seeing Jason, does he?”
“No,” Elizabeth said softly.
“So it can be a secret, for now. Because Cameron deserves this gift, and he deserves it from someone who loved him enough to do whatever Jason had to do to get this stupid thing—” Carly looked at her. “And you deserve someone who loves your kid enough to do that.”
“I’m not saying that because I like you. Actually, I’ve decided to hate you again.” Carly tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Jason looks miserable. I was hoping for more happiness when Skanky McCall left us, but apparently, I don’t get to have nice things.” She sighed. “I’m saying it because I think any single mother deserves someone who loves their kid.”
Elizabeth should argue with her, tell her to mind her own business, that she was wrong—but Lucky had only come to the party because he knew it was expected. And he’d stuck by her side long enough for Cameron to blow out the candles, then gone inside to drink with a man he knew hated Elizabeth.
More and more, she knew she was making the right decision. She would honor her promise to Luke to stay and support Lucky until he returned to work—but after that—
She was done.
“I fought for years for Sonny,” Carly continued. “I drove myself and everyone around me crazy trying to be enough for him—trying to match his expectations—trying to be worthy of his love.” She pursed her lips. “I thought that meant our love was epic, that it was destiny, fated mates bullshit, you know?”
Elizabeth let out a shuddering sigh as she saw where Carly was going with all of this. “I know what you mean.”
“I was devastated when it fell apart. I thought there was something wrong with me. I was damaged—I was broken—there had to be a reason Sonny always cheated. Why he treated me like a child, why he never respected me.” Carly met her eyes. “The best day of my life was the day I let go and stopped pretending what I was fighting for was worth having.”
“You’re not there yet, and I guess I can respect that. Just because I think you’re an idiot who’s fighting for someone who doesn’t put even pretend to put in even half the work when there is someone out there who will love and respect you—” Carly shrugged. “That’s your mistake to make.”
Elizabeth laughed even as tears slid down her cheek. “Thanks, I think—”
“Don’t wait too long to get your shit together, Elizabeth.” Carly pressed the remote to close her car door. “Your son deserves better.” She met Elizabeth’s eyes. “And you do, too. Tell me you know that.”
“I—” Her voice shook. “I do.”
Carly arched her brow. “Then act like it.”