“You should have seen her,” Emily said, twirling her fork in her pasta. She sighed, “So happy.”
Carly grinned at her from the other side of the table in the penthouse. “I don’t even care that we didn’t even get to put our plan into action.”
Emily nodded. “I know. They fell in love all by themselves…makes it better.”
“Yup,” Carly agreed. She frowned and checked her watch. “I wonder what’s keeping Liz. She only went to Kelly’s to get dessert.”
Emily shrugged, her eyes sparkling. “Maybe she ran into Jason.”
Carly pouted. “But I wanted my triple chocolate chip ice cream sundae.”
Elizabeth strode into Kelly’s, her cheeks flushed. She had run into Jason and he’d given her a ride to the diner. But they’d gotten slightly…distracted.
She was in such a hurry that she didn’t hear Bobbie Spencer calling her name until it was too late. She had paid Tammy for the three sundaes and was turning around when she froze.
Bobbie, Lucky’s aunt, was smiling at her from a table and waving her over. Normally, Elizabeth would have no problem stopping for a chat. Bobbie and her late grandmother, Audrey Hardy, had been close and Elizabeth liked talking with Bobbie.
But today, Elizabeth’s eyes were trained on the head of silver hair—the slight profile. Most people wouldn’t recognize a person just from the back of their head—and Elizabeth never would have realized who it was if she hadn’t seen his hands.
The hands that she would never forget. The long fingers and smooth skin, marred only by a scar on the back of his left hand. She remembered that scar. She’d bitten him when she was fifteen. The pinky on his right hand didn’t have a nail.
She’d always remember those hands. The hands that had pulled her hair, smacked her, punched her, scratched her…the hands that had beaten her.
She stared at those hands nonchalantly resting on the table. Her breath was caught in her throat—she felt like she’d never breathe again. Her hands began to shake and she dropped the bag.
It fell to the floor with a soft thud and Elizabeth could see Bobbie’s face change from smiling to concern.
And then he turned.
And Elizabeth Webber saw Jeff Webber for the first time since he’d nearly thrown her out a window two years ago.
Bobbie stood and approached her. “Liz, are you all right?”
Elizabeth was trembling all over but she closed her eyes and forced for control. She had promised herself just yesterday that Jeff couldn’t hurt her—that he didn’t control her life. That she’d never give him that power again.
She took a deep breath and when Elizabeth opened her eyes, Bobbie took a deep breath of her own—in relief.
Elizabeth pasted a bright smile on her face and leaned down to pick her bag up. “I’m fine, Bobbie. It was just a surprise to see you here with my father.”
Jeff Webber had gotten up and came to Bobbie’s side. “Lizzie, it’s good to see you,” he said cautiously.
Elizabeth turned her fake smile towards the man that had haunted her thoughts and dreams. “It’s good to you, too… Daddy…” she said, forcing a cheerful note in her voice. She felt disgusting inside. How quickly she’d fallen back into her routine—pretending that Jeff was the perfect father and she was the perfect daughter. It came so easily to her—it always had.
Whether what he did next was for Bobbie’s sake or he just wanted to prove that he still had power over her, Elizabeth would never know. But she’d never forget the powerful waves of self-loathing and disgust that crashed over as Jeff leaned over to give her a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek. “You look as beautiful as always, Lizzie. Come by the house, I know your mother would love to see you.”
Elizabeth gripped the bag tightly—fearing what little control she had was about to snap. “I’ll do that,” she said, her voice still strong. “I have to go. Carly and Em are waiting. They must be worried. Good to see you, Bobbie… Daddy…” Elizabeth rushed out of the diner to where Jason was still waiting.
“Get me out of here,” she cried, throwing her leg over the back of the bike and clinging to him.
Worried about the note of terror in her voice, Jason turned the bike on, revved the engine and took off.
Inside the diner, Bobbie was shaking her head. “Elizabeth looks sick, doesn’t she Jeff?”
Jeff Webber looked at his old friend. “She didn’t look herself,” he agreed.
“I’ll bet she’s not eating right, living on her own with Emily,” Bobbie continued. “I don’t know why she insisted on moving out. Katherine would never say.”
“She’s living with Emily Quartermaine,” Jeff repeated. He tilted his head in curiosity. “How is Emily doing?”
Bobbie smiled. “Much better since Jason moved back home. She’s practically skipping her way through town.”
“Jason,” Jeff echoed. “And he still doesn’t remember anything?”
Bobbie frowned. “No. Why?”
Jeff tried not to look relieved as he smiled at Bobbie. “No reason. I just remember Lizzie was always close to him.”
Jason didn’t take her back to the penthouse—he took her to Vista Point instead. Whatever had happened back at Kelly’s—he didn’t want to leave her alone until he knew she was okay.
Elizabeth off the bike almost before he’d pulled it to a complete stop. She let the bag of sundaes drop on the ground as she sank to her knees, hugging herself. She couldn’t stop shaking.
Jason was alarmed and crouched in front of her. “Elizabeth, what happened, what’s going on?”
“He touched me,” Elizabeth whispered. Her blue eyes were wide with terror—and glazed over. She wasn’t here with him—she was somewhere else. “I feel so dirty.”
“Who touched you?” Jason demanded.
“I hate him, I hate him, I hate him,” Elizabeth chanted, rocking back and forth. She was still shaking.
Jason pulled her against him and they were both sitting on the ground now. She started to cry hysterically—the sobs shaking her body even more. Her face was bright red and she was clinging to him as if he’d disappear if she let go. But what terrified him more than anything was her skin. It was only June and she felt like she’d taken a dip in an ice pond. She was freezing.
It was nearly ten minutes before Elizabeth’s tears slowed. “He was there,” she whispered, her voice hitching as if she’d break into a round of sobs at any given moment.
“Who?” Jason asked. But he knew. He knew the answer before she even said it. He’d never seen her like this—not even the night she’d woken up in the hospital. She was so terrified.
“My father.” She took a deep breath—she tried. But it got caught in her throat and she started crying again.
Jason closed his eyes. He didn’t always know what to say to her—but most of the time he managed to come up with something. But how could he reassure her that Jeff Webber couldn’t touch her?
He’d let her down. He’d never forgive himself. He’d promised her that Jeff wouldn’t get within a hundred feet of her and he’d never touch her again. And he’d broken that promise.
Jason tightened his arms around her. “I am so sorry,” he whispered, feeling the tears prick at his own eyes. This beautiful strong woman who’d faced Frank Verruchio down while laughing only a few nights ago was reduced to a terrified little girl just by the sight of her father.
“He touched me,” Elizabeth breathed, closing her eyes. “He hugged me and kissed my cheek like we were a normal family.” She took another deep breath and managed to do it this time. “And I let him! Oh, god, I let him touch me!” She tightened her grip on his shoulders and stared wildly in his eyes. “He touched me and I let him do it!”
He stared at her, helplessly. He could hold her after her nightmares and tell her she was okay. But how to do you convince someone that everything will be okay when you’re not even sure yourself?
In the end, Jason just closed his eyes and tightened his grip on her, feeling lost for the first time in his life.
He’d taken Elizabeth back to the penthouse and put her in his bedroom. She’d cried herself to sleep nearly an hour later and Jason left then.
He went to Sonny’s apartment, knowing Emily and Carly were waiting for her. As soon as he walked in, Carly jumped up from her seat at the table.
“Have you seen Elizabeth?” Carly demanded. Emily stood and studied her brother’s face.
“Jason, what’s wrong?” she asked quietly. “You look…”
“What happened to Liz?” Carly cried. She grabbed his shoulders. “Something happened didn’t it? You’ve been crying—you never cry—”
Emily pulled Carly away gently. “Jason what’s going on?”
Jason looked away. “Elizabeth is asleep at my apartment. She, uh…” he looked up at the ceiling trying to keep himself in check. “She saw Jeff at Kelly’s.”
Emily gasped, her hand flying to cover her mouth. Carly stumbled back, her eyes wide. “Is she okay?”
Jason shook his head slowly. “No. She’s not.”
Emily started for the door. “I want to be there when she wakes up,” she said.
“Em, wait-” Jason said, holding the door shut. “You need to know—that I’ve never seen her like this. Not after any nightmares or even after the hospital.”
Emily turned back. “What?” Her eyes were wide and filled with tears. “What do you mean? What’s wrong with her?”
Carly took a deep breath. “She was shaking, her skin like ice to the touch.”
Emily and Jason’s eyes flew to Carly. “How-” Jason broke off.
“Because that’s the way I felt when my father showed up after he got out of jail,” Carly whispered. She looked away—towards the windows. “He’d been in jail for three years, I’d gotten my life back in order. I was even happy. My mother was doing better. I thought I’d put that behind me. But one day, he just showed up at the door. Out of the blue. No warning, nothing. And he hugged me.” Carly wiped her arm. “I’d never felt so disgusting in my life. I wanted to kick him, scream…”
Emily was staring at Carly. “Oh my God,” she breathed. “It happened to you, too.”
Carly met her eyes. “Yeah,” she said her voice cracking. “And my mother ignored it. For thirteen years, he beat me and she never wanted to see it. Sometimes it was so bad, it hurt to breathe. I wished that I would die. He started beating me before I could remember…my mother finally told me he’d hit me the first time the day I began to walk. I walked in front of the television…” Carly smiled through her tears. “I paused and fell…and he smacked me that day. And it never stopped until he went to jail when I was fourteen. For three years…I don’t even remember why he went. But when I was seventeen he came home and wanted to pretend that nothing had changed. And my mother…” Carly took a shuddering breath. “She wanted to pretend, too. But I couldn’t—I couldn’t do it. I ran away that day and I didn’t stop running until I came to Port Charles seven years later.”
Emily was crying silently, her hand still covering her mouth. Two of the people she loved in her life had suffered through so much—how was such cruelty possible?
Carly shook her head. “Don’t coddle her,” she said softly. “And don’t tell her it’s going to be okay. It won’t work. Because she believes right now that she’s weak. That she let him do this. Because no matter how much you think you’ve put it behind you, all it takes is one little reminder to bring you right back to reality—that it will never be over.”
Carly sat on the couch and curled up, clutching a pillow. Jason and Emily were still standing by the door. Neither knew what to do. Because comforting Carly wasn’t going to work and comforting Elizabeth didn’t seem to be an option. Because as Carly said, all the comfort in the world would never erase what had happened.
The scene was broken when Sonny entered. The door opened and bumped Jason in the back.
“Sorry, didn’t see-” Sonny’s words fell as he took in Jason’s pale face, Emily’s tears, and Carly curled up on the couch. “Carly…”
Carly looked up, her brown eyes drowning in tears. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “Sometimes it’s just too vivid to forget.”
Sonny dropped his keys on the desk and rushed to the couch, crouching in front of it. “Baby, what happened?”
“Jeff Webber,” Jason stated. Sonny ripped his eyes from his wife long enough to look at Jason. “Elizabeth saw in Kelly’s. He hugged her,” Jason said, the disgust dripping from his voice. “She’s terrified, Sonny. I have to go back to her before she wakes up alone.”
“I’ll go with you,” Emily said quickly.
“I want to go too,” Carly said quietly. Sonny looked back to her. “I want to be there for her. We have to, Sonny.”
Sonny nodded. He stood and offered her a hand.
Jason went to sit by Elizabeth’s side and so did Carly. Sonny wanted to help—so he did the only thing he could.
He started to cook. Emily helped. Sonny had taught her to cook over the past two years and it was something the two of them often did together. She had developed a love of cooking that rivaled Sonny’s and like Sonny, she often sought comfort in it.
Sonny and Emily worked quietly for a while. They started with a casserole, Sonny’s reason being it was something that could be heated up.
“I don’t know what to do,” Sonny said finally. Emily closed the oven door and looked up at him. He was leaning against the kitchen counter, hands gripping the edges. “My sister and my wife are still as tormented as I am and I can’t help.”
Emily took a deep breath. “I don’t what to do, either. Because I just want to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and I can’t promise her that.”
“I could get rid of him,” Sonny said. “But the only person that would help would be me. Or Carly, Jason or you. We’d feel better. But she’d still go to sleep every night, his voice echoing, and the memories just at the edge of her brain waiting to attack.”
Emily looked away. “She was so happy,” she whispered. “She hadn’t stopped smiling all day. Why did this have to happen now?” Emily asked, the tears beginning to burn her eyes. “Why? Why Beth? Why Carly? Why does this have to happen to the people I love? How can people be so cruel to children?”
Sonny’s throat began to thicken as he stared at the crying, angry woman. “I don’t know,” he said hoarsely. “I wish I had the answers. But there are none.”
Emily suddenly grabbed a chair and threw it against a wall. “Damn it, this isn’t fair!” she cried. “I can’t help my best friend! I failed her when we were younger and I’m failing her now! All I want to do is kill him! I want to wrap my hands around his neck and hear his bones pop!” She was shaking as she continued, “I want to see the terror in his eyes, I want to see him struggling to breathe…I want him to understand what it’s like to be so scared you’re going to die and not being to control it!”
Sonny wrapped Emily in his arms, as her body continued to shake with the angry sobs. He couldn’t help but agree with Emily—it would be satisfying to rid the world of Jeff Webber. It would be worth it to see the look in his eyes—but in the end, nothing would help Elizabeth.
She’d have to fight this battle herself. But Sonny was beginning to wonder how many battles his sister would have to fight before she lost the war.
Carly was curled up in a chair, staring at Elizabeth’s sleeping form. Jason was lying next to Elizabeth, holding her. She’d already had two nightmares, but Jason had been able to calm her down before Elizabeth had awakened.
“I wish I knew what to do,” Jason whispered into the dark room.
“There’s nothing you can do,” Carly replied quietly. “Other than what you’re doing. We can be there for her, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t fight her demons for her.”
“She laughed,” Jason said. “She laughed in Verruchio’s face when he called her a bitch. She wasn’t even scared.”
Carly had no idea what Jason was talking about but didn’t let that faze her. “She’s strong,” Carly said. “She can beat this.”
“I know,” Jason said softly, unconsciously tightening his arms around Elizabeth. “But how many times does she have to beat it?”
Carly rubbed her arms absently. “She’ll have to fight it the rest of her life,” she said, her voice almost too low for Jason to hear. “Because the terror she lives in every day will be present whether that scum lives here or in Europe. Because she’ll always hear his voice and she’ll always remember the way she felt—because those memories are always waiting to attack.”
“When does it get easier?” Jason asked. “Can you tell me if it ever does?”
Carly shrugged. “It does for some people and for others, it never does. But it takes time, Jase.” She sighed. “It might be a long time before she’s ready to continue a normal existence—be a normal girlfriend for you—”
“That’s the last thing I’m concerned about,” Jason cut in.
Carly smiled weakly. “Good. You know, I’ve done a lot of reading…” she sighed. “And I’ve found that most of what the doctors say about survivors of child abuse is shit. I know the statistics…that people were abused are more than likely to be abusers and that’s just not true. Because if anything…we know more than anyone else what’s it like to go to sleep at night—and wish you wouldn’t wake up.” She looked down at her nails which she’d been chewing on all night. “Sonny and I have chosen to support each other—but she’s chosen you to support her.” She found his eyes in the darkness. “Don’t ever let her regret that decision.”