So little time
Try to understand that I’m
Trying to make a move just to stay in the game
I try to stay awake and remember my name
But everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel the same
– Everybody’s Changing, Keane
Saturday, July 16, 2005
New York City, Upper West Side, Matthews Penthouse: Living Room
Courtney watched as her brother prowled her spacious living room, peering out the windows over her lovely view of Central Park.
Something was not quite right with Sonny.
And not in the way it had not been right for months, for years. Something new was wrong. Which really summed up Courtney’s entire relationship with her enigmatic older brother.
He had come into her life when she was already fully grown, a surprise to a young woman only seeking out her absentee father. And part of Courtney had been elated—she had known other girls with older brothers in Atlantic City—these brothers usually took their sister’s sides, drove them around, and kept the worst of the boys from annoying them.
Courtney had always wanted an older brother.
But Sonny had not been the older brother of her dreams, and now nearly four years later, she still wasn’t entirely sure how well she knew him.
“Thanks for letting me stay,” Sonny said, turning to her, his dark eyes flat. “I know it was short notice—I just didn’t want my name showing up on any hotel registries.”
“It’s fine.” Courtney sipped her water and then set it on the side table. “Carly called asking me why you were here.”
“What’d you tell her?”
“The truth,” she replied. “I didn’t know. But Sonny, I promise you, I would have said the same thing if I knew the reason why. If you wanted Carly to know why you were here, she would. It’s not my place to tell her.”
Sonny frowned at her, darkly silhouetted against the otherwise bright July sun beaming into through the windows. “You two are friends. Aren’t you?”
“Because it’s easier.” Courtney pursed her lips. “Being away from her, I started to remember why Carly and I didn’t get along when I first met her.” She hesitated. “And I’m finally being honest with myself as to why I decided she and I should be friends in the first place.”
It wasn’t her best moment, but Courtney had long ago decided that pretending she hadn’t done the things she’d done served no purpose. “I—yeah. I was running from all the things that went wrong with AJ. And Jason felt safe. I wanted him. I didn’t know how to make that happen.”
Sonny sank into an armchair. “I knew it would be a mistake.” He scrubbed a hand over his mouth. “You and I were never really close, Courtney. Even when you were with Jason, but it never felt right to me.”
“It never felt right to either of us,” she murmured. She perched at the edge of her sofa. “Which is why it only worked for as long as it did because there was always something more important going on around us and honestly, Jason didn’t have the time to realize it.” She leaned forward. “Sonny, you can talk to me. You’re right. We’ve never been close, but that doesn’t have to be the way it is forever.”
Sonny stood again, restless. He started to pace. “What do you think of Evie? Of Jason and Evie, and that business with Sam?”
Courtney leaned back against the sofa and crossed her legs. “I think Jason sacrificed himself to protect the boys. Carly threatened to walk away again, to start that horror show all over again, and in the deepest part of Jason’s heart, he still loves Michael as his own. He couldn’t put him through that again.” She lifted a shoulder. “So he lied.”
Sonny’s shoulders slumped as he stood with his back to her. “I didn’t want you to be hurt by all of that, Courtney. I was—I was glad you packed up and left.”
“I always knew once the divorce was final, I would need to leave Port Charles. Two failed marriages in two years, Sonny. I needed to be somewhere else.” She folded her hands in her lap. “So Jason lied. I was never sure how much you knew then.”
“Jason started it on his own.” Sonny turned to her. “But I continued it. I thought it served a purpose. I couldn’t have Sam and Evie in my life. Not with Carly around. Not if I wanted my boys, too. I couldn’t have it all.” He closed his eyes. “And I told myself over and over again that it would be okay. Jason would be good to Sam and Evie—”
“I knew for months, Sonny. Maybe—maybe at first, I wondered if Jason had slept with Sam to get her away from you. But I didn’t really believe that. The timing never worked. For all the damage Jason and I did to one another—I never worried about him being unfaithful to me.” She sighed. “Well, unless Elizabeth had given him an opening. If it had been Elizabeth, I would have believed it. But not Sam.”
“They’re engaged,” Sonny murmured. “Just this last week.”
Courtney took that news in, and waited for the pang. Waited for the sadness. But she felt nothing. Just a wistful longing for the friendship she had once shared with her co-worker before Courtney had sabotaged it. And a lingering feeling that some things couldn’t be denied.
“Good.” Courtney rose to her feet. “He and I were an aberration, Sonny. A detour. All roads always led back to her, Sonny. I saw it then, and I see it now. I hope he’s happy. That’s all I want for him.”
“And I accused him of helping Sam to trick me,” Sonny murmured. “Of stealing my daughter.”
Courtney closed her eyes and rubbed her temple. “Sonny—”
“I didn’t—I didn’t know I would say it until it was out there. And—” Sonny met her eyes, now a bit wild. “It keeps happening, Courtney. Every time I see him, I have this urge to wrap my hands around his neck for stealing Evie from me. For having the family I want. God.” He pressed his lips together and swallowed. “And I feel those things even though I know they’re not true. He started the situation with Sam and Evie, but I—I kept it going. I made the choice.”
“Sonny…” Courtney approached him, her hands slightly lifted. “I know maybe you don’t want to hear this, but you need to talk to someone—”
He laughed then, a bitter, dark, and twisted sound that held no humor at all. “You’re not the first. Jason told me the only way I could be in Evie’s life is if I talked to someone. I wanted to kill him for it.”
She swallowed. “Sonny—”
“I mean, I thought, how dare he give me ultimatums—he’d be nothing without me—” But Sonny shook his head. “Then Elizabeth came to me.”
She sighed. All roads would always lead to Elizabeth. “And she said the same thing?”
“She reminded me how we met.” Sonny started to pace again, but he was calmer now. “And she talked about who I was to her once. She told me I was kind, compassionate…” He shook his head. “I don’t see it, but she does. And-and I thought maybe if—maybe if Elizabeth saw it, it wasn’t crazy to think I could find it.” He looked at her. “She was a little sister to me before I met you, Courtney. I looked out for her, kept her safe. I knew what she meant to Jason once upon a time. And I did my best by her.”
And Courtney told herself that his words didn’t mean she herself had been replaced by Elizabeth. In fact, the opposite seemed to be true. Because Courtney could probably pinpoint the time when it changed—when Sonny had an actual sister to look after.
Courtney had replaced Elizabeth briefly for Sonny and Jason, but she’d been a misshapen puzzle piece that didn’t fit.
“Now I attack her when I see her because I know what she means to Jason.” Sonny wiped his hands across the back of his mouth. “Because he has her unconditional love and support. Because she’s a wonderful mother who will love Evie the way I can’t. The way Sam can’t. The way Carly doesn’t understand. Because I’m jealous that Jason walked away from her all those times and there she is, again. Her heart open, her hands out. Why the hell does he deserve that and I get Carly?”
Courtney sighed. “Sonny—”
“But I can’t control myself anymore.” Sonny crossed again to the windows. “The words, the feelings, the way I look at Jason—I can’t stop it. I try not to. I try to remember how Jason has always been there for me, and I can do it. Until he’s been in the room. But now I just—” He broke off. “I’m here to talk to someone. To see if maybe—I don’t know. Maybe I’m depressed. Maybe I’m crazy.”
Courtney bit her lip. “I’m glad you’re here to talk to someone, Sonny. And I’m glad you came to me.” She took his hand in hers. “Maybe we don’t know each other as well as we thought we did, but you know what?” She waited for him to meet her eyes. “In all the world, you’re the only person who belongs to me. And I belong to you. That’s what siblings should be. A person to whom you can open up to, show all the ugly parts of yourself and know that somehow, they love you anyway.”
She gently kissed his cheek. “When we knew each other before, I didn’t see the gift I was getting. And maybe you didn’t know what to do with another sister. But I want to be part of your family, Sonny. And I want to see you through this. Because that kind and compassionate man Elizabeth thought she knew once upon a time? I can see him in there.”
She gripped her brother’s shoulder. “Don’t let him be lost forever, Sonny. You’re—you’re my only brother. And I need you.”
Sonny dipped his head and rested his forehead against her shoulder, and just for a moment…
Courtney Matthews was the strong one.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Audrey slid into a seat across from Jax. “I’m so glad you agreed to meet with me, Mr. Jacks.”
“Please.” The blond Australian held up a hand with a brilliant grin. “Jax. I was intrigued by your call, Mrs. Hardy.”
Audrey waited as Georgie came over to take their drink orders before moving into her pitch. “You may have heard the gossip that my granddaughter is getting married—”
“To Jason Morgan.” Jax nodded, but his smile dimmed a bit. “It’s been making the rounds. Bobbie Spencer is a vociferous supporter of the match.”
And clearly Jax wasn’t, but that wasn’t Audrey’s problem. She was a woman on a mission. “Well, I am pleased my granddaughter has finally chosen someone who treats her right. I’d like to throw them an engagement party.”
Jax nodded. “That sounds nice, but I’m not sure how I can help—”
“Well, I thought Club 101 might be a good venue, and I was under the impression you owned it.” George returned with his coffee and her tea. “So I wanted—”
“I signed papers about three months ago, finalizing the sale.” Jax stirred some sugar into the black coffee. “I invested in it with Carly Corinthos during the period she was divorced from Sonny, and then bought her out when she went back to him. I didn’t want to be in business with him—”
“But I’ve been moving out of the night club business,” Jax continued. “It’s not really my area, you see. And Carly recently offered to buy it from me, to add to The Cellar.” He nodded towards the door. “Here Carly comes now.”
“Oh, ah…” Audrey twisted as Jax gestured for Carly, who had just entered through the doors of Kelly and approached them with an annoyed look. “I don’t—”
“Mrs. Hardy is looking to throw an engagement party at 101,” Jax told Carly. “With your friendship with Jason, this actually works better, doesn’t it?”
Carly pursed her lips and considered Audrey, who almost squirmed. She did not want to engage in business with Carly Corinthos, but Jax had placed her in a delicate position.
Audrey might not be privy to all the details concerning Jason’s relationship with Sonny and Carly, but she did not want to rock the boat by pulling out of the idea in front of Carly.
“Ah, I suppose it does,” Audrey murmured.
Carly pulled out a chair and sat. “I don’t much care for Elizabeth, but it’s something I can do for Jason.” Her dark eyes were expressionless. “I’ll have my assistant call you to set it up. She handles most of the direct business at 101 while I deal with The Cellar.”
“All right.” Audrey gave her number to Carly. “Ah, thanks, Carly.”
The blonde woman stood and disappeared into the back. Jax grinned at Audrey. “That was lucky, her coming in just then, eh?”
“You have no idea.” Audrey sipped her tea and hoped she hadn’t just engineered the end of the world.
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Elizabeth emerged from the back office, her face scrunched up in annoyance. “I have to cry defeat.” She tossed the papers at Jason who was reading on the sofa. “I have no idea what these say.”
Jason set his coffee on the table and reached for the discarded sheets. “I told you.”
“And so did my brother and Nikolas.” Elizabeth sat on the sofa and listened to the squeals and laughter coming from the playroom upstairs where Nora, Cam, and Evie were playing. “At least someone is having fun.”
“You should ask Nikolas for a lawyer to represent you.” Jason sat up and started to put the papers back in order. “Your agent isn’t much help.”
“He got me into this.” Elizabeth rubbed her eyes. “Maybe this is a bad time to be thinking about going into business, but I know the Jerome Gallery. It’s not quite as prestigious as the Harris, but it’s launched so many careers. The owner has a fantastic eye for new talent and it would be…” She twisted her fingers. “I liked to the idea about an art school attached to it, about a place for low income students who can’t afford more instruction—”
“I know.” Jason set the papers on the table. “I can put you in touch with Bernie, but you might prefer someone who’s a bit more familiar with this type of business.” He looked at her. “And if you’re thinking about putting off your career because of Sonny or the wedding—”
“I have two small children at home, Jason.” Elizabeth pursed her lips. “I’m getting married. It’s all I can do carve out time to spend in the studio every day, but thank God for Nora. I take back everything I ever said about nannies. She’s fantastic. I just—”
“Don’t want another thing taking you away from Cam. And Evie.” Jason drew her to his side. “I get it. But you were excited when your agent called yesterday. We can make it work. I mean, could you move your studio to the gallery? Work out of there?”
“Maybe.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I don’t know. I guess, I don’t know, it’s happening so fast, Jason.” She twisted her engagement ring. “I don’t need money now, which is all I really wanted from my art—to have the opportunity to do something I love that would let me support my son. But with you and the money from the first show, that’s not a problem. Now I might partner in a gallery, be involved in a charitable foundation for art education—”
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” He kissed her forehead. “But if you want it, we’ll find a way.” His cell phone chirped then and he frowned at the incoming call.
He lifted his arm away from her and hit the talk button. “Sonny?”
“Jason, I—I’m in New York. Until Tuesday.”
“New York?” Jason stood. “Is—is it about Courtney?”
“No, no.” Sonny’s voice faded a bit. “It’s…I’ll be back Tuesday.”
The line went silent. Jason lifted the phone from his ear and just stared at it.
“Jason?” Elizabeth sat up, her legs tucked underneath her. “What’s—what’s going on? Is Sonny okay?”
“He’s in New York. Until Tuesday.” He slipped the phone back into his pocket. “I haven’t seen him since Tuesday, since I told him about the engagement. Haven’t talked to him either. But now he’s in New York.” He exhaled slowly. “I don’t—I don’t know what’s going on.”
She bit her lip. “Jason. I—I went to talk to him.”
Jason looked at her, at her uncertain eyes. “To Sonny?” he asked, even though clearly that’s who she meant. “Why?”
“Because you—because of what we talked about.” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “Because I wanted to see if Sonny could get better. If he could—I don’t think I made it worse, Jason. He seemed okay when I was there. Not quite his old self, but he was somewhere in there.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Jason sat next to her. “Elizabeth—”
“Because I—” She bit her lip. “If I had told you before I went, you would have asked me not to. And after—I just didn’t know if it had done any good. But I told him he should talk to someone. Anyone. That it had helped me. Emily and I—we’ve been trying to figure out what might be wrong with Sonny.”
And now his sister was involved. “Elizabeth—”
“Emily asked a friend at the hospital about some of Sonny’s symptoms, about the way he flips without warning. About the mood swings, and the things he says. The things the two of us have personally seen, and Lainey said it might be bipolar disorder.”
Jason frowned. “Okay, so?”
“Well, I asked Lainey the best way to talk to someone who might be suffering from it,” Elizabeth said. “Because we thought maybe Sonny would see what we had—the argument you’d had with him already—as a challenge. And it was the wrong way to do that, we know that now. Because it might have made Sonny dig in his heels, and-and increase the paranoia that sometimes accompanies it.”
“So what should we have done?” Jason asked, his ire fading. “Is there a better way?”
“I told him about my therapy,” Elizabeth replied. “About the way I felt when I went to California. How much I felt like a failure—how looking back at what happened with Ric, with Zander, and Lucky made me feel worthless and stupid—”
“Elizabeth—” Jason closed his eyes, realizing she had ripped herself open for Sonny. “You didn’t have—”
“How I couldn’t understand the things I had done, the way I had acted—” Elizabeth continued. “Because Sonny needed to know that he wasn’t alone. He needed to feel like I was with him, you know? Like I could really understand what it felt like to be in that kind of darkness. I told him how much I loved him, how I remembered the night at the garage when he caught me and gave me something to hold onto—”
She stopped, dipped her head. “Are you mad at me?”
“Mad?” Jason repeated. “Are you kidding me? Elizabeth. The way Sonny has treated you—the way he’s acted towards you—and then you tore open a vein in front of him just so he could—so maybe he’d get some help?” Her generosity stunned him.
“I wasn’t lying to him when I told him I understood the way he felt.” Elizabeth leaned towards him. “I told you once, when Ric was shot—that it should be been you. I said that to you, Jason. And I pulled a gun on you—”
“Hey—” Because her voice was thick now, and tears were spilling from her eyes, Jason roughly pulled her to him, across his lap so he could hold her. Make it stop. “Don’t. That’s not important now—”
“The horrible things I did and said to you, Jason…you gave me another chance. You let me back in even though I hadn’t done anything to deserve that—of course I could forgive Sonny. It’s not him saying those things. I mean, yeah, it is, but it comes from this dark place inside him and he can’t—can’t control it…” Her eyes were closed. “But I could. A-And I did them anyway—”
“Stop it.” Jason brushed her hair away from her face, both hands framing the line of her jaw. “Stop it. I love you. None of that matters to me.”
“Elizabeth.” He exhaled slowly and tucked her into his embrace. “Maybe you should talk to this friend of Emily’s. You-you said your therapist in California helped. Maybe—maybe you stopped seeing her too soon.”
The fingers of her left hand were clutching at the dark blue fabric of his t-shirt, the diamond catching flashes of the sunlight. “Jason—”
“Because I forgave you for those things a long time ago. Maybe even as soon as they happened. Because you forgave me for the bomb in your studio, for being kidnapped—”
“That’s different.” She sniffled. “You didn’t do those things—”
“No, but I answered my phone every time Sonny and Carly called. And I lied to you to protect Sonny’s peace of mind.” He rested his chin in her dark hair. “And instead of working things out with you, instead of proving to you what you meant to me, I took the easy way out. I started seeing someone who didn’t ask much of me. I walked away from you, Elizabeth, and straight to Courtney. And you’re not holding that against me.”
“I walked away from you first,” she murmured. “And I slept with Zander.”
“We could spend the rest of our lives cataloging all the things we’ve done to each other,” Jason told her. “All the times we almost took the next step and didn’t. All the ways we’ve hurt each other. But none of that matters to me now.” He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. “You took another chance on me, Elizabeth. And I took one on you. Does the rest of it matter compared to what we have now?”
She was quiet for a long moment. “No. No. But—” She raised her head from his shoulder and gently ran her fingers through his hair, her nails lightly scraping his skin. “But maybe you’re right. I should talk to someone. I didn’t…I still have a lot of guilt bottled up inside. And I want to come to terms with it. I have to forgive myself. You were right that night at Jake’s. It’s not enough to know why I did them or not to do them again.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I have to forgive myself.” She was silent again. “Do you think Sonny went to New York to talk to someone?”
“Maybe.” He brushed his lips against hers. “But thank you. For trying to help him. Maybe it worked.”
And maybe it would—if Elizabeth was right about the best way to approach Sonny. If he had seen just a small piece of the guilt she struggled with all the time, the misery she still fought through—maybe Sonny had felt a sense of kinship with her.
And maybe they could pull this back from the fire after all.