Elizabeth glared at the customer in front of her. “You do not get to haggle the price of your check,” she began in a controlled tone. “This is not a negotiation–”
“I ain’t payin’ eight bucks for no steak!”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You knew the price when you ordered the dinner–”
The man she was arguing with stood suddenly. Elizabeth took a step back automatically. The guy was bad news–she could just tell. He was over six foot tall with a scraggly beard and bruised knuckles. She never should have served him.
“Look, lady, this is highway robbery and I ain’t payin’ for it,” the man repeated.
Without blinking, Elizabeth glared back at him. “Ariel!” she called, never taking her eyes off the customer.
“Yeah, Spence?” Ariel called from the bar, eyeing the customer warily.
At the mention of the police commissioner, the man took a step back. “All right. All right. Don’t get too crazy. Look, I’ll pay.”
Elizabeth smirked. “I knew you’d see it my way.”
After the guy had paid and left, Elizabeth slapped her order pad down on the bar. “That’s it. I can’t do this anymore!”
Ariel smirked. “I’ve been tellin’ ya since the day you started working here, girl. You ain’t cut out to be a waitress.”
“I think I’ll stick to bartending, if that’s all right with you,” Elizabeth replied, glaring at her manager. “I still want to help out, but I can’t take waitressing anymore. The people are crazy–arguing over the price of steak. Honestly. As if the price wasn’t printed clearly on the menu.”
Ariel shrugged. “People will argue over just about anything.”
“It pays to be on good terms with the commissioner,” Elizabeth replied. “I’m sure as hell glad Mac’s on my side.”
“So your days as a waitress are numbered?” Ariel asked.
“My days of waitressing are over,” Elizabeth replied. She pulled her apron off and set it under the bar. “I’m out of here. If you need me, call the cell phone.”
Elizabeth pulled up to the red light. “Stupid lights are just not cooperating with me,” she muttered.
After a few seconds, the light changed to green and Elizabeth took her foot off the brakes and pressed it to the gas. The car lurched forward and was going along fine when Elizabeth felt the car slowing.
She frowned and pressed harder. The car continued to chug along before finally coming to a complete stop.
“No, no, no…”
She turned the ignition on and then tried to turn it back on. Sometimes that worked–her car wasn’t all that cooperative.
She pulled the keys out of the ignition and threw the door open. She stormed out of the car and kicked at the tire. “Stupid, no good, piece–”
“You don’t really think the car can hear you, do you?”
Elizabeth whirled around to see Jason Morgan leaning against a lamppost. “Where did you come from?” she demanded.
“I’m on my way home,” Jason replied, jerking a thumb towards Harborview Towers a few blocks away. “I only work on the docks, so I walk home.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth turned away. “Well, I don’t care if the car can hear me or not, but if it could I’d tell it it’s going straight to the junkyard!” she said, raising her voice at the end of the sentence. “I have to pick up Lex from Lily’s and then I’m gonna have to walk home with her. Stupid car. I knew I should have listened to Mac and Luke when they told me to buy a new one–” She stopped and put a hand to her head. “I do not need this right now.”
Jason was silent for a few minutes before coming forward a little bit. “Come on. I’ll walk you to the Towers.”
Elizabeth pulled her purse out of the car and locked it. “Thanks.”
They walked a block in silence before Jason said, “I’ll have someone take you home if you want.”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth replied gratefully. “Lucky me you came along when you did.”
Jason shrugged. “I guess.”
They walked in silence the rest of the way. When they reached the penthouse floor, he told her someone would be waiting for her in the parking garage and he went to his apartment without another word.
Lily was in a distracted mood when Elizabeth picked up Lex. She mumbled something about a phone call and told Elizabeth she’d call her for lunch this week. They needed to talk.
A few nights after her car broke down, Elizabeth was back at the Outback, tending the bar. Giving up waitressing had been a good idea–one of the best she’d ever had. She absolutely hated it–and was more than happy to stick to tending the bar.
It was a slow night and Elizabeth found herself staring at the clock, willing for it to be eleven so she could leave and pick up Lex at Lily’s. She’d gotten her car fixed–thanks to a favor Luke had called in at a repair shop.
“Well, well, well.”
Elizabeth grimaced and reluctantly ripped her eyes from the clock and met Nikolas’s dark eyes. “What do you want?” she asked, trying maintain some semblance of control.
Nikolas sat down on the stool and rested his elbows on the bar. “So, you out of money all ready?”
She frowned. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
“I saw you here with Jason Morgan a few nights ago.” Nikolas smirked. “Is he the next victim?”
Elizabeth crossed her arms and regarded him with suspicious eyes. “I’ve been wondering about that, actually. I’ve been wondering how you could have seen me here talking to him when that was the night I’d gotten the call from you reporting the civil suit. How could you have possibly seen me here, discussing the phone call with Jason?” She took a step towards him. “Do you have someone here…watching me?”
Nikolas shrugged and gave her a charming smile. “Maybe.”
“Why?” Elizabeth demanded. “Why can’t you just accept that Lucky is dead and that I had nothing to do with it? Why must it be some sort of conspiracy?”
Nikolas leaned forward. “Maybe it’s because I know where you come from, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean?” she asked.
Nikolas’s smile broadened. “I know everything about you, Elizabeth. I know why you’re running from your past and I know why you don’t want to go back.”
“You don’t know anything,” Elizabeth replied, keeping her voice calm. “You have no idea why I don’t see my family. You only know what people are willing to tell you and those people don’t know anything.”
“Well, then tell me,” Nikolas said. “Tell me why I should believe you didn’t kill my brother for the insurance money when you were desperate to make sure you’d never have to go back home.”
Elizabeth clenched her jaw. “You don’t know anything, Nikolas and I’m not going to tell you. My reasons don’t matter to anyone but myself.” She jerked her chin towards the door. “Now, get out.”
Nikolas stood. “You realize that it’s Lucky birthday, I would hope.”
Elizabeth glared at him. “Of course.”
“And that’s been a year since he married you,” Nikolas continued. “Funny–he’s been dead seven months. You couldn’t even wait that long.”
“Get out of here,” Elizabeth ordered.
“See you in court,” Nikolas tossed over his shoulder.
Elizabeth sighed and went to find Ariel. She needed to leave. If she stayed here much longer, she was afraid she might go insane.
She needed to go somewhere and find some peace.
The stone bridge spanned a small trickling creek. It had once led to a large estate but only the bridge remained. Elizabeth had only been there twice before, but today, on Lucky’s birthday, it felt like the right place to be.
She parked her car just off the road and hiked the rest of the way. Most people wouldn’t be able to find the right path in the dark but Lucky had only taken her in the dark.
It was slightly chilly and Elizabeth shoved her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket. The path was rough and littered with many fallen branches and twigs that cracked her under her boots. Elizabeth wondered idly how people had gotten to the bridge when house had still been there if there was no road.
She reached the clearing and walked to the middle of the bridge. She leaned over the edge and clasped her hands.
“Hey, happy birthday,” Elizabeth said. “It’s been seven months and believe it or not, I actually miss you. The other day, Lex looked up at me and smiled, I swear, it was your smile.”
A few yards away, just outside the clearing, Jason stopped seeing Elizabeth standing on the bridge. He had come to think about Robin and he wasn’t aware that anyone else came there. But Elizabeth Spencer was here–talking to her husband. He knew he should leave her alone–but he didn’t move.
“I know we got married for all the wrong reasons,” Elizabeth continued, “but I loved you. You were a good friend. I remember standing here last year on your birthday. We’d just been married and even it we weren’t in love–I’m not sorry it happened. Lex is my entire life and I’ll always be grateful to you–and I promise you–I will tell Lex something new about you every day. And when I run out of things to tell her, I’ll ask your parents. No matter who comes into my life, you will always be her father.”
Elizabeth straightened. “We came here on our first date–I should have known then that nothing between us would be normal.” She smiled. “I don’t think I’ll come back–not by myself anyway. Maybe I’ll bring Lex when she’s older.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Goodbye Lucky.”
She took a step away and turned to go back the way she came. A twig snapped and she knew she wasn’t alone. “Who’s there?”
A figure emerged from behind a tree. She blinked a few times to make sure she was definitely seeing what she thought she was seeing. “Jason-?”
“I’m sorry,” Jason said. “I didn’t know anyone else came here.”
She frowned. He sounded different; his voice wasn’t as cold or detached. She squinted. “I came here for a few times with Lucky.”
For some reason, Jason took a step forward and said, “I used to come here with my ex-girlfriend.”
Surprised, Elizabeth bit her lip. Jason Morgan had always seemed so cold and remote. It surprised her to realize he’d come here–with a girlfriend nonetheless–or that he’d tell her so. “It’s Lucky’s birthday-” she stopped not sure how to explain she’d been saying goodbye to a man who’d been dead seven months.
Jason nodded, understanding. He took another step forward. This conversation had only been going for a few minutes and it already felt different. He had a feeling from what she’d been saying to Lucky that Elizabeth Spencer knew what it was like to lose something that never should have been yours in the first place. “I used to come here with Robin–her parents died six years ago today.” He put his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “Her parents used to come here.”
Elizabeth walked forward a few steps. She didn’t understand what was happening–why the reputed mobster was telling her things that seemed so personal–but she had a feeling he was a little confused himself. Bolstered by the thought, she said, “Lucky never met Lex. The car accident was just before she was born.”
Jason reached the edge of the bridge. “I remember the accident,” he said. “Robin and Lucky were close. They grew up together.”
“Robin Scorpio?” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. She remembered Mac’s niece, the petite brunette who had looked down on her and had disapproved of her marriage. She hadn’t understood why Lucky would date let alone marry the Outback waitress. “I remember her.”
“She used to talk about Lucky’s wife,” Jason remarked. He leaned against the bridge. He couldn’t believe he was discussing Robin with a perfect stranger.
But Elizabeth Spencer wasn’t a perfect stranger–he could see that. She was Lily’s friend, Lucky’s wife, Luke’s daughter-in-law. She’d bought Robin’s uncle’s restaurant. So many connections between the two of them–how had they not met before that day at The Outback?
Elizabeth muttered, “I’ll bet she did.”
Jason surprised them both by chuckling. “She didn’t like you. Thought he was too good for you.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “She was probably right.”
Surprised by her answer, he asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Lucky was this computer whiz. Son of the former mayor and owner of the best blues club in town. His mother runs one of the best cosmetics companies in the country. He could have gone places.” Elizabeth smiled bitterly. “Instead, he married a waitress he’d knocked up.”
“But that was his choice,” Jason replied. “I’m sure you didn’t trap him.”
She smiled. “Now how are you so sure?”
He shrugged. “I can usually read people.” Elizabeth looked away and sighed. “What’s wrong?”
“Because someone who barely knows me seems to know that more than people who are supposed to be my friends.” Elizabeth crossed her arms and leaned against the opposite side of the bridge. “His brother blames me–keeps trying to have me arrested. Nikolas has almost managed to convince Laura as well. And I know there are plenty of other people who think it’s my fault. Because I used part of what Lucky left me to buy The Outback. Because I don’t still wear black. Because I’m the one who asked Lucky to pick me up that night–” she stopped. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go on.”
“Do people really think it’s your fault?” Jason asked.
Elizabeth sighed. “Laura said so–but that was that night at the hospital. She was grieving. But with Nikolas trying to open an official investigation and he’s always hounding Laura… I know people think I’m cold because I bought the restaurant three months after Lucky died.” She shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me–but I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking those things.” She stopped. “I seem to have a habit of telling you more than you need to know.”
Jason smiled–which again surprised him as much as it did her. “Well, you wouldn’t have hired Alexis otherwise.”
She smiled in response. “She’s worth every penny. Has anyone ever told you you’re easy to talk to?”
“Really?” Jason asked, amazed. “Robin used to tell me I was horrible–I’m not sure whether it was because I never offered her an opinion or maybe it was because I never agreed with her.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Well, if I want an opinion, I’ll tell you.” She rubbed the sleeves of her jacket. “Anyway, I think she’s wrong. You even look like you were interested in what I was saying.”
“I like to listen to people,” Jason admitted. “Some people, when they’re nervous, keep talking and they tend to let things slip. It comes in handy in business.” He stopped. Had he really just told her that?
“Well, listen to me long enough and you’ll know my life story,” Elizabeth remarked, cheerfully.
He tilted his head to the side. “Do I make you nervous?”
She shook her head. “No. To be honest, even after I found out who you were, it didn’t faze me. I mean, I’ve heard things, but if there’s anyone who knows what it’s like for people to automatically think the worse of you, it’s me.”
Jason shrugged. “I don’t care about what people think.”
Elizabeth looked at the ground. “I didn’t used to…but now that I’m a mother…I don’t know. I guess I don’t want Lex thinking I killed her father.”
“I’m sure Cassadine will have given up by the time your daughter’s old enough,” Jason said.
“I hope so.” Elizabeth sighed. “Sometimes I wish I hadn’t come to Port Charles, you know? I mean, Lucky would probably be still alive if I’d picked New York City instead.”
“Why did you come here?” Jason asked curiously.
Elizabeth shrugged. “Got a map, and let my finger fall randomly.” She snorted. “Landed right on this place. Figures. Why couldn’t it have landed on Rome or Paris.”
“Paris isn’t that great,” Jason said. He hadn’t meant to say that–but Elizabeth seemed to have a way of making him say a lot of things he didn’t mean to.
“It’s probably better than here,” Elizabeth muttered. She ignored the way his whole body seemed tense at the mention of Paris. “At least in some other country, people wouldn’t stare at me like I was the town pariah.”
“No, that’d be me.” She looked at him, startled. He was a little bewildered himself. Why was he trying to make her feel better? She was just a waitress. He didn’t know her.
She finally relaxed and smiled. “I guess we have something in common.”
He found himself smiling at her. He hadn’t smiled this much since–well…ever, actually. Maybe Lily would explain this to him–she sometimes knew the reasons he did things.
“Well, I’d better be going.” Elizabeth straightened. She hesitated. “It was nice talking to you–maybe we could do it again?”
Here’s your chance, Morgan. Tell her straight out–tonight was a fluke. He didn’t know why he hadn’t turned away when he realized she was here–but he didn’t need to compound the mistake by giving Elizabeth the illusion they could be friends. He had Lily. He didn’t need anyone else.
But instead he nodded. “Sure.”
She smiled again and walked out of the clearing.
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