And I claw for solid ground
I’m pulled down by the undertow
I never thought I could feel so low
Oh darkness I feel like letting go
If all of the strength and all of the courage
Come and lift me from this place
I know I could love you much better than this
– Full of Grace, Sarah McLachlan
Monday, May 19, 2003
General Hospital: Kelly Lee’s Office
After a month of pretending to be carrying Jason Morgan’s child, Elizabeth wished that she could have some of the benefits that title ought to bring. Like having Jason at a doctor’s appointments. She’d had one shortly after starting this debacle, but she’d gone alone and had had to struggle to fill out forms with the father’s medical history.
She’d had to deal with Monica and Alan cornering her outside the appointment, and asking questions about her child, wondering if Jason would allow them to be part of his child’s life. She’d had to deal with Emily’s angry stares as the medical student passed her during her rounds.
She’d had to deal with the whispers of people wondering if she’d tricked Jason Morgan into believing this was his child because he had more money than Ric Lansing, who had slunk out of town and disappeared. He was off the radar, and tension was building in Elizabeth’s world, because this was exactly what she was afraid of. Ric was gone, and the world believed she was having Jason’s baby. This ridiculous plan had no exit strategy.
And here she was again. For her first ultrasound, now that she had money to pay for such things. She was nervous about seeing her child on the screen for the first time, hoping that she could actually understand what she was looking at, and praying she would feel connected to this child that had changed her life, and caused her jeans feel slightly more snug than they had just two weeks ago.
She was doing this alone, and knew the world would pity her. Jason may have claimed her baby, and people might believe it, but other than checking in with her guards and having someone set up an account so that she could pay her hospital bills, she had barely seen the alleged father. He told her he was chasing down leads on Ric, but Elizabeth thought he might be regretting even getting involved.
“It’s you and me, kid, against the world,” she murmured, her hand on her abdomen. “I won’t promise to be an amazing mother, but I’ll do my best.”
The door popped open and a perky blonde entered, wearing some sort of stuffed animals fastened at her wrist. “Hello! I’m Nadine Crowell.” She thrust her hand out. “Kelly’s running late, and she asked me to get you set up.”
“Okay.” Elizabeth leaned back on the table and sighed. “Are you new? You weren’t here last time.”
“I just started two weeks ago. I moved here from Manhattan.” Nadine smiled and reached for the blood pressure cup. “I was glancing at your chart before I came in. Your first baby, you must be so excited!”
Elizabeth looked at this friendly woman, with her bright smiles and enthusiastic eyes and she felt tears burning in her eyes. “I guess you haven’t lived here long enough yet to know the answer to that.”
Nadine frowned and fitted the cup on her arm. “Oh, you mean the hospital gossip about you being knocked up by the local alleged mob enforcer while you were dating other people.” When Elizabeth just blinked at her, Nadine shrugged. “I don’t see what that has to do with being excited. Sure it’s a crazy situation, but does that mean you can’t be happy about your baby? My Aunt Rayleen always said that a baby is sunshine and moonbeams and bits of stardust blown by the hand of God.” When Elizabeth said nothing, Nadine bit her lip, looking embarrassed. “I’m probably overstepping—”
“No, no.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly and winced as the pressure began to build on her arm. “You’re absolutely right, Nadine. Just because I managed to get myself into a massive disaster, I get to feel how I want about becoming a mother.”
“Oh, good. You’re not mad.” Nadine smiled, but it dimmed when she read the print out. “Hmm…140/90.” She frowned, letting the cup deflate.
“Is that bad?” Elizabeth asked. “Is too high?”
“It’s not good.” Nadine made a note in the chart. “But I guess you’ve been more stressed since your last visit. It was slightly elevated then, but it’s even higher now.” She bit her lip. “We’ll let Kelly know.”
After Nadine took Elizabeth’s blood, and reluctantly convinced her to step on a scale, Kelly Lee bustled in. She was a pretty Asian woman who had immediately put Elizabeth at ease the month before with her brisk and friendly manner. These were the only two women in the world who didn’t look at Elizabeth like she was gum on their shoe.
She wanted to hug them.
“Good morning, Elizabeth.” Kelly sat on the stool next the ultrasound machine and took the chart from Nadine. “How are you feeling? You’re not as nauseous as you were last month, I hope?”
“No.” Elizabeth sat up a little. “I’m tired still, but not as much as I was a few weeks ago. I’m only throwing up like twice a week and not twice an hour.”
“Good, good.” Kelly clucked her tongue. “Your blood pressure is still up. I need you to relax more, honey, before it becomes a serious issue. If I see these numbers again at your next appointment, I may have to suggest bed rest.”
Great. Bed rest. Just what she needed working to save money for a new apartment and for the essentials. “I’ll try, Dr. Lee, but you know…my situation hasn’t been ideal.”
“I know.” Kelly reached over and squeezed her hand. “But hopefully, all the people who want to yell and scream at you have finished and they’ll let you get back to your most important job for the next six and a half months—growing your beautiful baby.” She hesitated. “I see you turned in a more complete medical report from Mr. Morgan. That’s good. I don’t expect any complications, but it’s always good to have a full picture.”
It had been the most mortifying experience of her life taking those papers to Jason’s penthouse and being forced to leave them with Sonny because Jason hadn’t returned her phone calls, but it was a necessary fiction. Jason’s parents worked at this hospital and they were Quartermaines, so they were likely checking records.
Kelly glanced around. “And I see we’re on our own again.” Sympathy shone in her dark eyes for a moment before she turned to switch on the machines. “Well, maybe when we do the ultrasound and find out gender next month. That sometimes kicks fathers into gear.” She smiled at Nadine. “Sometimes it’s not real to them otherwise.”
“Maybe,” Elizabeth murmured. But she knew better. Jason might have promised her he wouldn’t resent her for putting him in this situation, but a lousy four weeks into this ruse and she felt as alone as she had in that penthouse last fall.
She was never going to learn.
“We’ll how about we look at this kid and see a heartbeat,” Kelly said. “You up for it, Elizabeth?”
“Absolutely.” Elizabeth wanted to feel connected to her child, to see it on screen and make it real in her head, because it was clear that they were going to be on their own.
Corinthos Penthouse: Master Bedroom
Carly hummed as she flipped through her brand-new maternity clothing. She rarely needed an excuse to go shopping, but pregnancy was proving to be a great excuse to keep Sonny from snarking at her when she made Rocco carry bags inside.
Sonny was downstairs even now, planning a nutritious dinner that made Carly’s stomach revolt. No sugar. No chocolate. Nothing sweet. Nothing fun.
“Hey, Carly.” Courtney entered and flopped down on the bed. “You’re going to have to turn the other guest room into a closet pretty soon.”
Carly smirked and hung another summer dress. “I’m saving that for the middle of the summer when I’m driving Sonny crazy.” She looked at sister-in-law. “How are you doing? You haven’t been over here for a while.”
“I called Sonny before I came,” Courtney replied, reaching for one of Carly’s bags. “To make sure Jason was out for the day and Elizabeth wasn’t around.” She grimaced. “I’m trying really hard to be okay with this, Carly, but it’s so hard. I have to work with her twice a week, sometimes three. Bobbie could only do so much with our schedules.”
“Must be tense.” Carly reached for an old dress to toss it on the giveaway pile. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell Courtney that she needn’t have worried about seeing Elizabeth. Carly hadn’t seen her at the penthouse once. In fact, she wasn’t aware that Jason had even seen the mother of his child all that often. “Have you two talked about what’s going on?”
“No.” Courtney sighed. “I mean, maybe we should but I can’t really think of what I’d say.” She pulled out a tank top from the bag and stacked it on the bed with some others. “I’ve been trying to figure out how it happened, and I guess I initially assumed it meant they still loved one another.”
Carly turned and looked at her. “Why?”
“Well…” Courtney hesitated and blinked at her. “Jason won’t tell me how it happened. I ran into him on the docks last week, and I didn’t mean to, but I started yelling at him. And then I begged him to tell me it was a mistake, that it was never going to happen again, but he refused. And you know, he almost defended her the day we found out.” She jerked a shoulder. “I thought that meant that Elizabeth was going to be in his life, but you know…I only see her with guards. He never drops her off at work or picks her up. I thought he was trying to avoid shoving my face in it, which I appreciated, but Penny told me he never shows up on her shifts either.” She bit her lip. “Carly, you know people are talking about Ric.”
“What about Ric?” Carly’s hands tightened on the sweater she was going to donate.
“Well…” Courtney paused. “That maybe Elizabeth doesn’t know who the father is and she told Jason it was his because she wanted it to be—”
“No.” Carly spun around, her heart racing. “No. I know that would make everything easier, and I am so sorry, Courtney. But it’s not true. Jason is the father.”
Courtney stared at her. “You sound…” She swallowed hard. “You sound really convinced.”
Carly cleared her throat. “Yeah…well… I had my suspicions, and I badgered Jason quite relentlessly until he told me that he had no doubts. He wouldn’t give me details, but I gathered from that and some…arguments I may have had with Elizabeth that she and Ric were only together once or twice and it was not in the right time frame.” She smoothed out the wrinkles in the sweater she had twisted in her hands. This rumor had be squelched. It simply had to be. “I’m sorry, Courtney, I really am.”
“Well, I guess it make sense.” Courtney sighed. “I mean, once Elizabeth thought she had a chance with Jason again, she probably wouldn’t have screwed it up by sleeping with Ric again.”
“Exactly.” Carly nodded and took the stack of tank tops from the bed and shoved them into a drawer. “If Jason had any doubts, that’d be different. But he’s convinced.”
“Okay,” Courtney drawled. She stood and folded her arms across her chest. “Then why doesn’t he at least act like he’s going to be a father?”
Carly frowned and looked at her. “What do you mean? She has guards on her. Jason’s paying for her medical bills. I think she’s being stubborn about anything else.”
“I guess.” Courtney pursed her lips. “Though if I were pregnant, I guess I might want the father of my child to pay some attention to me.” She sighed. “I think I just want to believe that he did this because he loved her and wanted to be with her. He hasn’t even asked me to forgive him, so it means that he’s sorry he hurt me, but he’s not interested in getting back together. Why not if he’s not going to be with her?” A tear slid down her cheek. “If he didn’t want me anymore, why didn’t he break up with me before he slept with her?”
“I’m sorry,” Carly said. “I just… I don’t know the answer to that.”
General Hospital: Cafeteria
Nadine sipped her iced tea and smiled across the table at Elizabeth. “Thanks for asking me to coffee.” She wrinkled her nose. “Though neither of us seem to be drinking that.”
Elizabeth laughed and stirred her hot chocolate. “I just had a craving for hot chocolate. I know it’s getting warm out, but I just…” She shrugged. “I love my chocolate.”
“I hear ya.” Nadine set her tea down. “I haven’t had a chance to meet a lot of people yet with my work schedule. I decided to move up here on a whim, really, a few months ago and had to wait for an opening.” She played with the wrapper of her straw.
“You may have noticed from my appointment,” Elizabeth began, “that I don’t have a strong support system right now.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “I burned a lot of bridges getting pregnant with…” She hesitated, still finding it difficult to say. “With my ex-boyfriend’s baby, and most of the people I might have confided in are out of town or are angry with me. So I hope you don’t mind that I saw a friendly face and hoped to have someone talk to.”
“Oh, absolutely.” Nadine wiggled in her chair. “It totally sucks to be basically alone in the world. My dad took off ages ago, my mom died and my Aunt Rayleen raised me and my sister until Jolene—that’s my sister—killed a patient in a mercy killing and then injected herself with a drug that left her in a vegetative state. Then Aunt Rayleen died, and my ex-boyfriend turned out to be total jerk I wanted to throw out the window, so I decided I need to get the hell out of New York.” She finished this dialogue with a sip of iced tea.
Elizabeth blinked and couldn’t fight a smile. “It’s brave to pick up leave. To start a new life.” She twisted her fingers together. “I thought about it when I found out I was pregnant. I thought maybe everyone would be better off if I never told anyone and just headed out.” She pursed her lips. “But as you can see, that didn’t work out for me.”
“Well, maybe the father of your kid will get more involved after the next visit.” Nadine hesitated. “Is there a chance he might come to this one?”
“Unlikely,” Elizabeth admitted. She looked across the cafeteria where Monica and Alan were sipping coffee and studiously trying not to look at her. “I think he’s regretting his decision to get involved.”
“Oh.” Nadine frowned. “Well, that sucks large.” She squared her shoulders. “Well, then you know what? I’ll be your other person in the room. You should have someone with you when you find out the gender. Someone who will smile and be happy with you.”
Elizabeth looked down, her throat tight. “That would be…” She swallowed. “I would really like that, Nadine. Thank you.” She hesitated. “You know…until you asked me if I was excited about the baby, no one else had. It was just…everyone looking at this baby like she was a disaster that just needed to fixed or taken care of.” She swallowed again. “No one…no one’s asked me about being a mother, or if I was happy.”
Nadine reached across the table. “I’ve known you all of an hour, Elizabeth Webber, but I promise you, I will be your person. I think we’re both in need of a friend, and I’m taking applications if you are.”
Elizabeth squeezed it, and felt the tears sliding down her cheeks. “I’m not only taking them, I’m accepting them on the spot. And to celebrate our new friendship, I want you to be the first to know that although the circumstances are less than ideal, I am ridiculously excited about my child.” She took the sonogram photo out of her pocket and smiled down at it, feeling like a mother for the first time. “And I cannot wait to hold her for the first time.”
Nadine grinned. “You’re having your mommy senses tingle. You think she’ll be a girl?”
“I do.” Elizabeth’s breath hitched, but she continued to smile, feeling lighter than she had in months. “I do. I’m going to have a little girl, and you’re going to be my person.”
“Fantastic.” Nadine sipped her iced tea. “Does your person get to go shopping for baby stuff? Because I love shopping for baby stuff.”
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
Sonny looked up as Jason entered. “Hey…thanks for waiting until Courtney left.” He rubbed the back of his neck, as if exhausted from the worry of the last month.
Jason nodded. “It’s just easier if we avoid each other,” he said. “We had a fight on the docks last week and I just…” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I’m not in a hurry to hurt her again.”
“Yeah, I hear that.” Sonny reached for a file. “I heard from Stan and Benny. Ric’s still in the wind. He and Faith are just…gone.”
Jason scowled. “Any chance the Families took care of things and are just keeping it quiet?” He shifted. “I want him out of our lives, Sonny. I’ve spent almost every waking hour tracking him this last month, but I’m coming up as empty as Stan and Benny.” He shook his head. “He shouldn’t be able to disappear like this.”
“I know, I know.” Sonny sighed and poured himself a whiskey. “I have a meeting with the Families in a few days to confirm the rumors about your kid and ask to them to step up their search.” He sipped his drink and Jason became wary, as a familiar light entered his eyes. “Jason, we gotta talk.”
“We’re not having this conversation again—” Jason stopped when Sonny held up his hand.
“I have Francis, Cody and Marco reporting to me as well,” Sonny told him and Jason frowned at this, wondering why Sonny would force Elizabeth’s security detail to report to both of them. “Because I’m concerned…” He hesitated. “I’m concerned that you’re not doing your part.”
He knew he wasn’t, and he was painfully aware of it the few times Elizabeth had contacted him and he’d responded through her guards. He didn’t need Sonny lecturing him. “I’m tracking Ric to keep her safe—”
“I get that, and it’s important.” Sonny nodded, and pressed his hand to his chest. “But we gotta keep up appearances. You know that. You don’t ask the guards for anything other than to confirm she’s still breathing.”
Jason frowned. “They’re not there to spy—”
“I’m not…” Sonny rolled his eyes. “You’re not talking to her about her condition, and her guards are painfully aware of this since they’re herding her to work and the hospital without you being there. Jason, we’re asking them to protect Elizabeth with their lives because she’s carrying your child, but the guards just see you not giving a damn.”
His hand fisted at his side. “Are they not paying attention?” Jason demanded. “Because if they’re screwing around with her protection because they don’t think I’m involved—”
“No,” Sonny cut in swiftly. “But you’re not earning any points with these men, and they need to believe they can respect you. They see this woman going through a tough pregnancy alone, coming close to being the town pariah and…” He shrugged. “You know. It’s not helping. They don’t say anything to me, but I can see it in their faces. Cody’s with her when she’s working most of the time, and it’s painful when he tells me the things people are saying. He’s not spying, he just wants me to be aware of the trouble Elizabeth is having, and he tells me because you don’t ask.”
His chest tight, Jason swallowed. “What…what trouble is she having?”
Sonny sipped his whiskey. “Alan and Monica always know when she’s at the hospital. She had an appointment earlier today and they cornered her outside, according to Francis. He came by after the shift change. They want to know if Lila will be able to see the baby, if maybe Elizabeth will come by once in a while, so they can get to know her as the mother of their grandchild. Emily gives her hard time, always sits in her section at Kelly’s and then has some rude comments. Cody used to stand outside, but the first time Elizabeth came out in tears, he asked Bobbie if he could set up shop inside while she was working.”
Jason exhaled. “I’m sure there’s more,” he said. “What else aren’t you telling me?”
“You may not listen to rumors, but Carly told me that Courtney is wondering if what people saying is true. That Elizabeth didn’t know which one was the father, and picked you because you have more money. There are too many people speculating about this baby, and you’re not around to cement this notion in people’s heads.”
“Courtney told Carly…” Jason repeated. “What did Carly tell her?”
“I told her that you and I had argued about it.” Carly stepped off the stairs. “That I hadn’t gotten much from you, but during one of my arguments with Elizabeth that I’ve never had, she led me to believe the time frame doesn’t work. I assured her that you had not a single doubt.”
Sonny and Jason stared at her. She raised an eyebrow. “What, I should tell her the truth?”
“Carly,” Jason growled. “You know the truth. I told you the truth.”
“Yeah…” Carly planted one hand on her hip. “Yeah, you did. Which is why I told Courtney no doubts exist.” She flicked her eyes to Sonny. “I thought about talking to Mama where I know Amy Vining would overhear, so my convictions would be on record with the rest of the town.”
“Carly,” Jason began, pinching the bridge of his nose. Christ, if Carly knew the truth, this plan was doomed.
“Relax, Jase.” Carly patted his shoulder. “I’m not plotting, I’m not planning. I don’t even want you guys to tell me the truth, because then I can honestly say I only know what I’m told.” She shrugged. “You’re the father. Message received. I’m just saying that we need to take measures to make sure everyone else knows that.” She eyed him with annoyance. “Especially if you’re going to continue ignoring her and making Sonny chase you down with medical forms.”
“I didn’t know she needed me to fill out anything,” Jason retorted, wondering why he was letting Carly bait him like this. God, she was so frustrating sometimes.
“Well, no doubt since you always pawn her off on guards,” Carly said, her eyes wide. “You think I don’t notice? Elizabeth was upset and embarrassed when she came to the penthouse because you weren’t home. Again. And she told Sonny that she’d tried to call you, and that you told Francis you were going to be unavailable all week.”
“You weren’t in the room when Elizabeth was here,” Sonny remarked, putting his whiskey down. “What have I told you about eavesdropping?”
Carly dismissed him with a wave. “Unimportant. I’m not telling you what to do, Jase, because you won’t listen to me anyway, but I am the only person in this room who’s ever been pregnant, so let me give you the inside information she won’t.” She glared at Jason.
“Pregnancy is god damned stressful enough without being treated like the town whore. There is a person growing inside and it’s our responsibility to give the kid nourishment and a safe environment. Having to be looked like nothing better than dirt every time you leave your home is not conducive to safe pregnancy.” She folded her arms under breasts. “I went through that with Michael. I dealt with that before I lost our first child, Sonny. And now every time I go to Kelly’s, Elizabeth is fielding whispers and looks from everyone, including your annoying twit of a sister, Jase.”
“What’s your point?” Jason said spreading his hands out. “What do you want me to do? I can’t change what people say or do.”
“You could yell at your holier-than-thou sister,” Carly retorted. “You could maybe drop in Kelly’s once in a while and pretend you don’t see the mother of your child as an obligation, a burden, or worse, a horrible mistake. You could go to a damned doctor’s appointment. You’re the one who keeps telling me this is your kid, Jason Morgan.” She narrowed her eyes. “So act like it.”