Chapter 1

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the Signs of Life

‘Cause I’m just a girl, I’d rather not be
‘Cause they won’t let me drive late at night
Oh, I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak
‘Cause they all sit and stare with their eyes
Oh, I’m just a girl, take a good look at me
Just your typical prototype

Oh, I’ve had it up to here
Just a Girl, No Doubt


Monday, December 27, 1999

Kelly’s: Kitchen

“I will not get arrested, I will not get arrested,” Elizabeth muttered as she leaned against the brick wall, her eyes closed, counting to ten.

She opened her eyes to see DJ, the cook, staring at her with one dark brow lifted. “You got problems, Lizzie?”

“Problems. Do I got problems?” she repeated. Elizabeth huffed, then straightened. “Do you want to know what my problem is?”

“Am I going to be sorry I asked?”

“Do you see that crowd of people out there?” She gestured out the serving window where Kelly’s was uncharacteristically crowded for a pre-dinner rush hour. Kids weren’t in school and most of the warehouses were shutdown for the holidays. Kelly’s was usually dead this time of day.

But not today.

Today, someone must have told someone else who told the world that Elizabeth Webber, town harlot, was back at work because her shift had started with a stampede of people who wanted to look at her. Whisper. Giggle.  And wonder what Jason Morgan saw in her.

“I see them,” DJ said. “You should take their orders—”

“Do you think people are lining up to snicker at Jason?” she demanded. “No. Because I’m the woman. He can do whatever he wants—”

—including moving out of the studio abruptly with no warning or explanation that made a lick of sense, then not bothering to even call her today, the first day in almost a month they hadn’t seen each other, bastard couldn’t wait to shake her loose—

“Well, I don’t know, Lizzie, if Jason Morgan worked at a diner, maybe people would be—”

“Oh, don’t help, DJ,” she muttered. She grabbed her order pad and stalked out into the dining room, hoping that some of these gawkers would at least tip her well.

They did not. In fact, some of them didn’t tip at all. Maybe, she thought nastily as she bussed a table because Gavin had flaked again, maybe those beach blonde bimbos thought Jason paid for everything because that’s how they would handle dating a sexy, rich—

“You are an idiot,” she muttered to herself. She dumped the tub in the kitchen, then went back out into the diner, wincing when she saw Carly Quartermaine seated at the counter. Of course.

“Are locusts next?” she asked the ceiling.

“Now, don’t you be tempting the Good Lord, Lizzie,” DJ admonished her. “He’ll strike you down for it.”

“He’ll have to get in line,” she retorted.

“Having a bad day, Lizzie?” Carly asked as she picked up a menu, doing her best nonchalant expression. “I guess it hurts to know Jason couldn’t wait to get away from you as soon as everyone knew he was slumming it with you.”

“I actually think I’d be an upgrade,” Elizabeth said with a sweet smile. “But I’ll take your word for it since no one knows trailer trash better than you.”

Carly slapped the menu on the counter, her brown eyes sparking. “You wanna go a round?”

“Today? I absolutely do.” Elizabeth held up a finger. “But I’m warning you—I fight dirty. I bite. And you can ask my brother Steven to show you the scar I gave him when I was six. Served him right for cutting my doll’s hair for a pretend surgery.”

Carly’s scowl deepened, and Elizabeth thought she might actually take her up on the offer — until another figure approached them. Elizabeth winced as she locked eyes with her disapproving grandmother and Audrey’s thin, tight smile.

Carly twisted on the stool. “Oh. Mrs. Hardy. Here to pick Lizzie up for her Girl Scouts meeting?”

“Carly,” Audrey said, carefully. She stepped around the blonde. “Would you mind if I spoke with my granddaughter alone?”

Elizabeth sighed as Carly shrugged and picked up her coat. She’d rather get into a fistfight in the back alley than deal with another round with her grandmother, but Carly slid off the stool.

“See you around, Lizzie,” Carly tossed over her shoulder.

“Say hi to your husband for me!” Elizabeth called after her. Then turned her eyes on Audrey. “Gram, let’s save us both some time. You’re disappointed in me. Very disappointed. What would my parents think —” She waved her hand in the air. “And so on.”

“Actually, I was wondering what Lucky would think.”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together as she took that in, the tightness in her chest beginning to ache. “I think,” she said softly, “that Lucky loved me very much. And that he would want me to get on with my life. I’m only eighteen, Gram. I didn’t die with Lucky. No matter how much I wished I had.”

“Oh—” Audrey closed her eyes, shook her head. “Of course that’s not what I meant. But it was such a shameful display at the hospital—how could you—”

I didn’t do anything, and you know it. I was there to work the party. Jason and I were just talking, and Nikolas started that fight. Jason and I didn’t do anything wrong—”

“When did this start?” Audrey demanded. “Before or after November?”

“Wondering if you have a case at the PCPD? Gonna try to get him on statutory rape?” Elizabeth said, biting out the final word. “Go ahead. Give it your best shot.” She sighed. “There’s nothing to tell before November—”

“But there is something to tell?”

Another anguished voice came from behind Elizabeth, and she turned, surprised to find her best friend, Emily Bowen-Quartermaine, standing there. She must have come in the back alley. “Emily—”

“How could you keep this a secret from me? I’m your best friend. He’s my brother!”

Elizabeth was nearly at the end of her rope with this damn day. “I was right, DJ. It’s the locusts—”

“Locusts? Elizabeth, will you never be serious?” Audrey sighed.

“You should have told me!” Emily said, very nearly stomping her foot. Elizabeth looked at the watch on her wrist and sighed in relief

Four-thirty. It was over.

“I didn’t tell you, Emily, because I don’t owe you the details of my life. I choose to share them, but you don’t get to demand anything from me.” Elizabeth untied her apron and shoved it on the counter. “My sex life is my business. Not yours—”

Audrey moaned slightly as she pressed a hand to her head. “Oh, dear God, what would your grandfather say if he were here?”

“Sex life!” Emily repeated, her eyes bulging. “You’re having sex—”

“That’s it. Party’s over,” Elizabeth decided. She stalked past Emily to the back where she’d stowed her coat and purse for a quick get away out the back. “Hey, DJ, what comes after locusts?”

“Darkness,” the cook said with a sad shake of his head. “But don’t you go temping that, Lizzie. There are bad things in the dark.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Tell me about it,” she murmured, then she pushed open the security door and left the diner.

Elm Street Pier

For half a minute, Elizabeth thought about staking a position on the pier to see if she could run into Jason. She should probably warn him that she hadn’t set Emily straight on the platonic nature of their relationship—

But then she realized that if Emily went over to scream at Jason about something that wasn’t any of her business, he’d get a small taste of the nonsense Elizabeth had lived through that day —

And if she found some perverse pleasure in that, Elizabeth wasn’t going to complain.

Besides, as soon as she came to the top of the stairs, she saw Nikolas Cassadine, her former best friend, sitting on one of the benches.

And her ire only grew.

All of this was because Nikolas couldn’t mind his own business. Couldn’t respect her boundaries. Thought he had a right to tell her what to do—

She sauntered down the steps, and he turned at the sound. He drew his brows together. “Elizabeth,” he said warily. He got to his feet.

Good, he should be worried.

“At what point did I give you the impression that you had any right to tell me what to do?” she asked coolly.

“I know you’re angry—”

“Angry? You humiliated me in front of half of the town,” Elizabeth snapped. “I don’t want you, Nikolas. Get over it.”

His cheeks flushed as he lifted his chin. “That’s not what this was about—”

“No? Could have fooled me. We were friends. Until you tried to kiss me, and I didn’t want it. I don’t want you,” she said flatly. “And I felt really bad about hurting you. But you don’t have that same problem. You didn’t care that you were hurting me, that you were making my life more difficult—”

“If you’re ashamed of your affair,” Nikolas sneered.

“Affair? I’m single, Nikolas. I didn’t die last April, and I am not going to spend the rest of my life alone! If it wasn’t Jason, it was always going to be someone. Just admit it, Nikolas! You’re not mad that it’s Jason, you’re mad that it’s not you—”

Nikolas glowered. “He’ll just hurt you. The way he did Robin—”

“And that would be my business. Not yours. You and I are done, Nikolas. The Cassadine in you really jumped out,” she said. “We’re not friends. Maybe we never were—”

“You know that’s not true—”

“You never liked me,” Elizabeth reminded him. “And I didn’t like you either. Let’s go back to that. I think our first impressions were correct.”

She turned and stalked up the stairs, leaving Nikolas behind.

For good this time.

PCPD: Squad Room

Marcus Taggert was not having a great first day back after a holiday break. He grimaced as he listened to the irritating hold music on the other line. All he wanted was a John Doe floater to be fingerprinted.

Why the hell did everyone keep acting like it was so damn hard? It wasn’t his fault the body had been dumped in the harbor and so bloated and decomposed that it couldn’t be identified visually. Did anyone think Taggert wanted to look at those damn photos first thing in the morning?

He scowled at the phone receiver in his hand as if the pathologist on the other line could see him. “Well, can’t you just run the prints? No, no. Don’t give me this bullshit about it being a holiday. That was yesterday. Pick up the stiff’s fingers, roll them in some fucking ink—don’t give me attitude, Carson, or the next person you talk to will be the Commissioner.”

He snorted. “Yeah, I’ll wait.” Never failed. As he waited for the pathologist to return to the phone, he scanned the squad room and noted his partner, Andy Capelli, taking a statement from an increasingly irate Nikolas Cassadine.

When the younger man stormed out of the room, Taggert lifted his brows. “What’s his damage?”

“Oh, he wants me to file assault charges against Jason Morgan,” Capelli said. “Can you believe sweet little Elizabeth Webber has gotten mixed up with that asshole?” he snorted.

“Mixed up with? Like—” Taggert winced. “Sleeping together?” No. Not possible.

“Says Elizabeth confirmed it. He found Morgan with her in a studio her grandmother rented for her birthday a few weeks ago.”

“Well, she’s not the first good woman to see something worthwhile in an asshole,” Taggert said. The pathologist came back on the line finally, and the name had him clenching his teeth. “You’re sure—hey, cut the sarcasm, asshole—yeah, okay, send me over the full autopsy when you’re done.”

He set the receiver down gently in the cradle. Digested the news and let it roll around in his head.  “When did Cassadine say he saw Morgan at Elizabeth’s place?”

Capelli glanced at his notes. “Ah, around mid-December. Maybe the 13th. He didn’t remember for sure. Why?”

Taggert pursed his lips and tapped his pen against his desk blotter. “You said there was a fight. Was it that day?”

“Yeah—Cassadine wasn’t talking about that one though. Apparently they got into it at the GH Christmas party, too.” Capelli leaned forward, his dark eyes focused. “You think there’s something to the assault charge?”

“No, I’m thinking about timing. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen Morgan around for a while, and usually I do. We both go to Kelly’s for coffee almost every day, but I didn’t see him around much in December.”

“So, then I guess he was holed up with the Webber girl then—”

“Or,” Taggert said slowly, “she’s been covering for him. The guy at the morgue printed my floater. Anthony Moreno.”

“Anthony—” Capelli closed his mouth and just stared at him. “Moreno. Corinthos and Morgan’s rival. But Morgan’s too smart to dump a body like this—”

“I’m not saying I have all the details worked out. I’m saying that it’s all very interesting, and I’m not sure I buy that Jason Morgan is sleeping with Elizabeth Webber. Not—not like this.” Taggert hesitated. “I mean, everything she’s been through—Morgan—” How did he phrase this so that Capelli would understand?

“Morgan’s protective of her. I could see that the one time I saw them together. I don’t know why she’d be covering for him, but I also don’t believe it’s what Cassadine thinks it is. It’s…it’s worth finding out exactly how long its been since anyone saw Moreno and if Morgan has an alibi for that time period.”

“All right, let’s go check it out.”

Studio: Back Alley

Elizabeth turned the corner and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the motorcycle parked by the door to her building—and the man leaning against it. Jason Morgan arched a brow at her as she stood there like an idiot. “Hey.”

“Um, hey.” She approached him, folding her arms nervously. “What—why—”

“I was wondering,” Jason said with a light grin that made something in her chest flutter, “why I got a voice mail from my sister demanding to know why I hadn’t told her about us. Apparently, you wouldn’t tell her because our sex life isn’t any of her business.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips, deciding she needed to answer that question very carefully because truth be told, she was pretty sure she just figured out what it meant to be turned on by someone just speaking.

Because Jason referring their sex life—even fictionally—was making everything inside her feel sparkly, and fluttering—and stupid.

And if she opened her mouth right now she might do something insane like ask him to repeat our sex life on a loop for the next fifty years.

“In my defense,” Elizabeth said, “I’m not wrong.”

Jason tipped his head. “Yeah?” His grin stretched even further. “How so?”

“The fact we, uh, don’t have a sex life isn’t relevant.” She met his eyes, then arched her own brows. “It still doesn’t make it her business. Or do you tell your sister about every woman you sleep with?”

Well, that was wildly inappropriate, Elizabeth decided as she watched Jason’s eyes widen slightly. She was nearly ready to apologize and stop this ridiculous attempt to flirt—

Oh my God, was she trying to flirt with Jason Morgan?

But then Jason just nodded. He held out the helmet, and Elizabeth took it from him. “You’re right. And if she was half as irritated with you in person as she was in the message—well, I guess you deserve to have a little fun.”

“That’s what I thought.” Elizabeth fastened the helmet, climbed on the back of the bike. “This has been the absolutely worst day.”

“Cliff road?”

“Fast.”

Comments

  • I do so enjoy this story.

    According to Carla P on January 22, 2023
  • Rereading again!

    According to Becca on January 22, 2023
  • I so love this story. I can’t wait for everyone to find one there was nothing going on with Liz and Jason.

    According to Shelly Samuel on January 22, 2023
  • some funny dialogue
    and then Taggert ruined it

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on January 23, 2023
  • I’ve said it before and will again. I think this is one of my favorite stories. Every part of it rings true to the characters

    According to LivingLiason on January 24, 2023
  • Oh boy! It’s going to be rough for our couple. I think it’s ironic that the cops don’t believe that they’re sleeping together but Audrey and Emily do. Nicholas is a mess!

    According to arcoiris0502 on January 25, 2023