Outside The Brownstone
“Wait, maybe we should run away to Mexico,” Elizabeth pulled him away from the front steps.
Jason smiled in amusement and shook his head. “Come on…it might not be as bad as you think.”
“This is still my father we’re talking about right?” Elizabeth sighed and sat down on the steps. “Times like this…I wish my mother were still alive. Brenda’s great and all but she just argues with Daddy…Mama used to be able to convince him.”
“Elizabeth…whether Sonny approves of this or to…we are married, okay?” He crouched in front of her. “He can’t change that.”
She took a deep breath. “Right.”
“And I love you. He can’t change that, either.” He took her hands in his and rubbed his thumb over her wedding ring. “I hate that we had to do it like this. That we had to rush and be secretive. That we couldn’t just enjoy being with each other for a while but I don’t regret taking this step with you.”
“Even though we didn’t…” she flushed and looked down. “I feel so horrible that I ruined our wedding night.”
“You didn’t ruin anything,” Jason said firmly. “You know…I went to sleep holding you and I woke up and you were still in my arms. That’s–that’s more I ever dreamed of, okay?”
“Yeah–it’s just–all the advances I’ve had lately were Alexander’s and I guess it was harder than I thought to put that away–”
“Elizabeth, I’m not arguing with you.”
“–and it just really pisses me off that I couldn’t–I mean, I thought it about it all the time, Jason. From like the time I was thirteen on up–I thought about what it’d be like–”
“Thirteen?” Jason repeated, surprised.
“The second Mama had the talk with me, I thought about it,” Elizabeth told him honestly. “I mean–I knew about the whole where babies came from and the mechanics but she sat me down on my birthday and told me everything. That it–it would hurt but it got really good and if you had a man who really loved you, it made all the difference and I didn’t really think about it more than what it would be like to do it with you. I just–okay, maybe it seems a little weird because I was thirteen and you were like eighteen–”
“Elizabeth,” Jason interrupted, slightly amused, “I’m not judging you–”
“I know, I know you’re not but–well, it’s not like I thought about it every second of the day. And not when I was thirteen or whatever. I mean–Mama just said that one day I was gonna meet a man that I really loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with and it would be really special with him because of that and I remember thinking that I’d already met that guy and I knew–” she cleared her throat and shrugged. “I knew it would be special with you and that’s like as far as my thoughts ever really went.”
She flushed. “Well–until I was fifteen and I kissed you in the gardens. After that, my imagination just built it all up, you know? And yeah–then I started thinking about it in more detail and the fact that Alexander screwed that up for me really pisses me off.”
“He didn’t screw up anything,” Jason assured her again. “We’ve got the rest of our lives to make love, Elizabeth. And right now–I just want to go tell your father and get this over with.”
She stood and squared her shoulders. “Yeah, I guess running off to Mexico would only delay the inevitable. There’s no where we could go Daddy couldn’t find us.”
He twined their hands together and they started up the stairs.
Sonny watched his daughter and his surrogate son converse on the steps outside his home. Saw that they’d walked up hand-in-hand and he watched the intimate way they’d talked on the steps. Elizabeth sat on one of the steps and Jason had crouched in front of her.
Then they’d stood and walked up the stairs. Together.
“I accept that I haven’t been the type of father to Elizabeth that Lily would have wanted,” Sonny told his younger brother. “I came to terms with that a long time ago. She’s my oldest child and I love her, but in my world, women don’t carry a lot of weight. Lily was submissive to me. Docile, gentle. Everything Brenda has never been and I wonder if that’s not part of the reason I was attracted to her.”
Ric sipped his whiskey and stood behind his brother. “You were raised in a different generation that I was. Then our mother was.”
“My mistake was treating my daughter like the Don treated his own.” Sonny glanced at Ric. “You’re too young to remember the way Paul was. He treated everyone like they were one step above scum and he treated his wife like she’d been born to serve him. His daughter was married off to someone in Queens as a way to acquire territory. Before he died–when he told me that he was setting me up as the heir, he said something that I’ve never forgotten. He said that everyone and everything could be used as a bargaining chip. Don’t ever mix emotions with business. A son is desirable but a daughter can expand a territory faster.”
He glanced over his shoulder at Ric. “I made the arrangement with the Castellanos before Jason stepped foot in this house. I feel that it’s important for someone to know that. And when Elizabeth announced she wanted to marry Jason–she was all of five years old and I thought that she was–she was just being five. Lily never believed that and I think subconsciously, Jason even knew she was serious.” Sonny chuckled. “I can still see the horrified look on his face.”
“She’s the only one who never treated him like he wasn’t born to be part of this family,” Ric remarked quietly. “You were good to him Sonny and Lily loved him. He was my best friend. But you held part of yourself off. You never adopted him. You never let him forget where he came from and because of your attitude, Lily was affectionate but never more than necessary. He’s been a brother to me, Sonny, but Elizabeth was so young when he came here, she didn’t see the need in holding back. She adored him from the moment he let her play touch football with us.”
“I think it was before that,” Sonny remarked quietly. “But I guess it doesn’t matter now. It’s not that I thought he wasn’t good enough for her. I know that’s what I told him but it’s not that.”
“Then what, Sonny?” Ric asked. “He loves her and she loves him. What could make you want to forbid that?”
“He wasn’t the man I’d picked out.” A touch of bitter amusement filled his voice. “I’m a control freak, Ric, or didn’t you know that? God knows Brenda’s shouted it loud enough for you to hear next door.”
A soft knock sounded on the door and Ric turned to approach it. “Wait–” Sonny turned. “That’ll be Elizabeth and Jason.”
Ric turned back to his brother and frowned. He hadn’t been looking out the window and knew nothing of the couple’s arrival. “Elizabeth’s in her room,” he lied smoothly. “God knows where Jason is. It’s probably Mama.”
“You’re good at that,” Sonny told him. “Your eyes don’t even change when you lie. That’ll come in handy when you take over for me one day. But I saw them talking outside. And I’ve known Elizabeth was gone since she left yesterday morning and I know Jason was with her when he remained gone all day yesterday and didn’t return to argue more with me.”
Ric smirked. “We should have known we couldn’t get anything past you. Mama sends a message though–she wanted you to know that she was involved in the whole thing and thinks you’re anidiota.”
Sonny laughed then. “Yes–I believe that. Answer the door and then leave us. Go find Mama and Brenda. They’ll want to be present when they announce whatever it is they’ve done.”
Ric pulled open the door to find his apprehensive niece and determined best friend standing there. “The jig is up,” he remarked. He kissed Elizabeth’s cheek. “I’ll be around.”
Elizabeth frowned and entered her father’s office, wondering what her uncle could have meant. “Daddy–”
Jason closed the door after them and stood behind Elizabeth, offering his silent support.
Sonny held his hand up to ward off her words. “You need not say a word to me, Elizabeth. The ring on your finger speaks volumes.” He took her hand in his. “It’s been almost nineteen years since I put this ring on your mother’s finger, you know that?”
Elizabeth hesitated and looked into her father’s sad eyes. “Daddy…”
“She looked so beautiful, mi hija. As beautiful as I’m sure you looked yesterday. I loved your mother very much, Elizabeth and the things that I have said to you, forced on you–they would have made her so sad–I have shamed her memory.”
Now Elizabeth’s eyes burned with tears. “No–”
“Yes,” Sonny remarked. He kissed his daughter’s hand and let it go. “Your mother adored you with every fiber of her being. She lived for you and she wanted you to be happy. And from the moment Jason came to live with us, Lily was sure he would be the one to do so.” Sonny smiled a little. “I had forgotten how young Lily was when we met. She was seven and I was ten. I did not look at her as any more than a little nuisance who followed me everywhere. But when she was fifteen, she was suddenly more than a child. She’d blossomed–over night, it seemed–into this beautiful woman who had gained the attention of all the men in our neighborhood.”
Elizabeth, who still thought her mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, smiled at that. “You were jealous,” she said with amusement.
“Yes. Because I did not realize that I had always considered Lily mine.” Sonny lifted his eyes to Jason then, the first time he’d looked at him. “I know how Jason must have felt that day in this office when I told him of the engagement to Alexander Castellano and he asked if your happiness meant anything?”
Elizabeth smiled and looked away. Jason stepped forward a little and offered her a sheepish smile when he looked at her. “He did, did he?”
“Ah, I should have seen it then. But it’d been so long since those days when I was barely a man–still a teenager. I did not remember the sting of jealousy I felt whenever a man looked at this beautiful girl I had been trying to get rid of for eight years. You see, Elizabeth, sometimes a man must be hit over the head with the obvious and it was until one of these men tried to put his hands on my Lily that I realized what I had and what I could lose. And it wasn’t until Jason left for three years and returned to find my little girl all grown up that he realized the truth either.”
“Sonny,” Jason said, “I’m sorry–”
“You have nothing to apologize for. I am foolish man, used to getting my way. Until Brenda entered my life, I ran my life and those around me with a iron fist and unquestioned will. And I had set your life out for you, Elizabeth and yours as well, Jason,” Sonny admitted. “Elizabeth would marry Alexander and I was already working on finding you a suitable wife. As I said–I did not take Lily seriously when she decided you were the man for my daughter. When you announced at dinner when you were five you wanted to marry Jason–it did not occur to me that your mother was thinking of herself and how she’d decided who her husband was to be at age seven.”
“I am only sorry that I missed my only daughter’s wedding,” Sonny said softly. He kissed Elizabeth’s cheek.
“You knew before we even came in here today,” Jason said with a little respect. Slowly, Sonny was once again becoming the man Jason had idolized most of his life.
“I saw Brenda and my mother smuggle Elizabeth out in the alley yesterday,” Sonny told him. “And when you and Ric disappeared, I knew something was up. I was in my room before dinner and Lily’s wedding ring was missing from my dresser. I kept it next to her picture,” he told his daughter. “Brenda, God bless her, has never begrudged me Lily’s memory and each night I say a prayer for your mother.”
Elizabeth hadn’t known that and she was swamped with a sudden rush of love and sadness for her father who’d lost the first woman he’d ever loved. “Oh, Daddy…”
“And then you walked up hand in hand and spent ten minutes speaking outside.” Sonny crossed o the dinner. “My office is in this room precisely so I can keep track of comings and goings. I saw the easy and intimate way you spoke and I know the kind of man you are, Jason. I suspected you had not kept my daughter out all night talking and you are an honorable man, after all, so I suspected you might have eloped. But my suspicions were confirmed when you walked in with my stepfather’s ring on your finger and Lily’s on Elizabeth’s.”
“Are you mad?” Elizabeth asked softly.
“Mad that my beautiful daughter has married a man that I am proud to call my son in law?” Sonny asked. “I regret that I could not be in attendance, mi hija. But I know why you did what you did and I cannot blame you for it. I fear that I gave you no other choice.” He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. “I only ask that you be happy.”
Elizabeth threw her arms around her father and hugged him tightly. “Thank you. I was so scared coming here. I love you and I didn’t want to have to choose.”
“But you would have chosen Jason and I do not begrudge you that. I know what it is to be in love.” He pulled away from her and offered his hand to Jason. “I know that I was unfair to you and that is putting it kindly. But I ask that you do not hold it against me and that we put the past where it belongs.”
Jason nodded and shook Sonny’s hand. “I’m glad that this went well but I have to confess that it almost makes me suspicious. It can’t have been that easy.”
Sonny smirked. “There is a catch but it is a good one and I think one that you would both like. I ask that you let me throw you a reception to celebrate your marriage. That you let me buy the brownstone next door to me as a wedding present.”
Jason hesitated. He could easily afford the house on the money he’d saved working for Sonny but it would eat into a considerable amount of his savings. He recognized this was Sonny’s way of making amends and nodded. “All right.”
“Also–I have asked Ric to gather Brenda and my mother in the living room which means Faith, Carly and possibly AJ are there now. Brenda will know what we have been speaking of and will assume the worst so she has called in her reinforcements.”
Elizabeth laughed and hugged her father again. “I know that I gave you a hard time when you married her but I like her very much.”
“I like her too,” Sonny agreed. “Even if she drives me insane.”
Sonny entered the room first and immediately Brenda strode towards him, pointing her finger at him. “I swear if you gave them a hard time or any ultimatums, you’re cut off from sex for like a year, Michael Corinthos and furthermore, I’m proud to say I was completely in on it and–”
Sonny cut her off with a kiss. “You worry too much, Brenda.” He looked over his wife’s shoulder and saw Carly and AJ standing there. “Carly, AJ. Nice of you to join us.”
Carly’s brown eyes were burning with irritation. “I helped her pick out her wedding dress and I helped to arrange for the honeymoon, Sonny, so don’t you dare–”
“Oh, ye of little faith,” Sonny sighed. “Mama–” he began warily looking at his mother.
But Adela Lansing knew her son and she kissed his cheek. “You make me proud, mi hijo. Where are they?”
“In the hallway. Ric–I doubt that we have champagne but perhaps you could pour the wine?” Sonny prompted.
Brenda frowned. “What’s going on?”
“Elizabeth, Jason,” Sonny called.
Elizabeth pulled Jason into the room and smiled brilliantly. “It’s all right,” she assured her stepmother. “Daddy’s fine with it.”
“He knew we were married before we even walked in the door,” Jason said, slightly amusedly.
“Oh.” Brenda looked at her husband with baffled surprise. “And you’re okay with it?”
“More than okay,” Sonny said. He handed her a glass of wine. “I feel it’s appropriate that Jason is officially part of this family.”
“But–” Brenda trailed off and shot her sister a helpless look. “You were so angry yesterday–we heard you and Jason yelling in the office–”
“That was yesterday, today is another day.” Sonny shrugged.
Her eyes narrowed into slits. “Listen, buddy, I don’t appreciate being jerked around and furthermore, I don’t appreciate you being entirely amused at the fact you’ve knocked me off balance.”
“Ah, but it’s a husband prerogative. If you don’t change the rules, things become stale and ordinary.” Sonny kissed his wife again and she looked a little less angry but more baffled.
Ric passed glances to Elizabeth and Jason and looked to his brother. “Do you want to make a toast?”
Sonny nodded and wound an arm around his wife’s waist–a wife who was still muttering curses under her breath. “To my beautiful daughter and her new husband, may they know half the happiness I have in my life.” He looked up to the ceiling. “And to my beautiful Lily, who I know is looking over us and having a very amused laugh at my expense.”
He looked at his wife and was grateful to find love in her eyes again–the starry-eyed love that she’d had when they’d first married. He hoped he’d rebuilt himself some in her eyes. “To my Brenda, who constantly challenges me and makes me rethink every thought I ever had on women.”
He nodded in Carly and AJ’s direction. “To my wife’s sister and the family she is building, I know the influence you have had on m little girl, Carly and as much as it pains me to admit it–I am very glad you came here.”
“I am too,” AJ whispered in his wife’s ear. “Don’t you dare drink that wine,” he cautioned the heavily pregnant blonde.
“To my brother, who’s responsible for bringing Jason into all of our lives and to my mother, who puts up with us all.”
“Here, here,” Ric agreed.
Sonny raised his glass a little higher. “Most of all, to family. May this just be the beginning.”