A few hours later, Elizabeth emerged from her bedroom. Her eyes were still red, but she looked better.
Emily was sitting on the couch, the Chinese food set up. “Hey.”
Elizabeth sat and picked up one of the cartons and a plastic fork. She didn’t care what she was eating – she needed to eat something. After a few minutes of silently eating, Elizabeth set the carton aside, took a sip of iced tea and cleared her throat. “I, uh, have a lot to tell you.”
Emily tucked her hair behind her ears. “We have all night and tomorrow if need be.”
Elizabeth nodded and put her feet on the couch. She hugged her knees to her chest and sighed. “I suppose I should start at the beginning.” Her voice was hoarse from crying for hours. “Do you remember that day when we broke that statue in Lila’s garden?”
Emily nodded. “Yeah, Jason was chasing you…”
“You can’t catch me!” Elizabeth laughed. She dashed through some bushes and ducked under a hedge.
“Yes I can!” Jason had longer legs and eventually tackled her. She fell back and knocked a status over. “Uh oh.”
Elizabeth’s eyes welled up with tears. “Oh, no. I broke it.”
AJ and Emily entered the clearing. “What happened?” Emily asked her voice low.
“I didn’t mean to,” Elizabeth cried.
Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “Oh no! My dad’s here!” She looked around, alarmed. “He’s gonna be really mad!”
“Why? It was an accident,” Jason said.
Elizabeth shook her head. “No, I broke it. That’s all Daddy’s gonna say.”
“Elizabeth Webber-” Jeff Webber entered the clearing, Edward Quartermaine on his heels.
“What happened here?” Edward demanded. Jeff’s face darkened into a fiery red.
“Did you do this Lizzie?” he barked, approaching her. As he got closer, Elizabeth backed up until she backed into Jason. “Well?”
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” Elizabeth cried. Jeff grabbed her arm. “Ow!”
“We’re going home and-”
“She didn’t do it, Mr. Webber,” Jason spoke up. “It was me.”
“Yeah,” AJ agreed quickly. “Me and Jase were wrestlin’ and we knocked into the statue. We’re sorry, Grandfather.”
Edward looked at the two boys suspiciously. “Well…” he turned to Jeff. “There’s no harm done. Lila didn’t really like that particular statue.”
Jeff released Elizabeth’s arm. “All right.” He looked at Elizabeth. “You ready to go home?”
Elizabeth bit her lip. Emily spoke up then. “Grandfather, can Beth stay over tonight? Please!”
“If it’s all right with her father,” Edward replied, never able to deny Emily anything.
“It’s fine.” Jeff left the garden without another word.
“I’m really sorry, Mr. Quartermaine,” Elizabeth said softly.
“It’s all right, Lizzie,” Edward said, kindly. “You’ve done Lila a great service.” He patted her on the head and followed Jeff…
“I remember that,” Emily said. “Your dad really scared me. I thought he was gonna drag you out of the garden and we’d never see you again.”
Elizabeth sighed. “Yeah, I was scared for a different reason.” She looked down. “For as long as I could remember…my father hit me.”
Emily bit her lip. She didn’t know what to say. “Beth, I’m-”
“It wasn’t that bad when I was really young. He never did it unless I did something wrong. He’d smack me upside the head when I mouthed off.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, her voice shaky. “But, um, when I was seven, he started hitting me with a belt. That’s why I always wore sweaters and long pants – even in the summer.”
“Oh, Beth, why didn’t you tell anyone?” Emily asked, reaching her hand out and covering Elizabeth’s.
“I did,” Elizabeth whispered. “Jason found out when I was eleven. I didn’t want to tell anyone but Jason saw a bruise on my arm one day. It was middle of the summer and we were playing hide and seek in the garden. It was just the three of us because AJ had gotten too old remember?”
“Anyway, he asked me how I got it and I gave him the usual smart ass answer. None of his business and all that, you know?” Elizabeth bit her lip. “But Jason knew I was lying and he kept pushing until it just came out. After that, Jason and I were really close.”
“I remember around that time you started spending even more time at the mansion,” Emily said softly.
Elizabeth nodded. “It was getting worse. Knowing what I know now, I can see why I was the only one who got punished like that. Sarah and Steven…they were perfect. Because they were really my father’s children. I was just a reminder that my mother had been unfaithful.” Elizabeth blinked the tears back. “I know that didn’t give him the excuse to take his anger out on me, but it doesn’t change anything.”
“Well, the nights I didn’t spend with you, I’d sit in my room terrified that my father would find a reason to come in.” She smiled a little. “Jason told me that if it got too bad that I couldn’t sleep, I could sneak out and knock on his window.”
“That sounds like something Jason would say,” Emily said. “Did you?”
Elizabeth nodded. “Yeah, after a while, I wasn’t sleeping at all. My grades were dropping and I was getting sick a lot. So one night, I snuck out of my room.” She shook her head. “I climbed down the trellis in my nightgown. It was nights like that I was glad you guys lived across the lake and not across town. I ran across the grounds and I knocked at Jason’s window. I must have been twelve or thirteen at the time. I felt really stupid doing it, but I just couldn’t do stay in my room anymore. Jason opened the window and he let me sleep in his room. He’d sleep on the floor.” The tears started streaming down her face. “I’d never felt so safe in my life,” she said in a hushed voice.
Emily sniffled. “Oh, god, Beth, I wish I’d known-”
Elizabeth shook her head. “It was my choice not to tell you. Jason always wanted me to say something to you or AJ. But anyway, it continued like that until I was about fifteen. It got to the point that I wasn’t even staying in my room any night. If I wasn’t spending the night with you, I was with Jason.” A little smile appeared on her face. “I even kept extra clothes in his room.” She frowned. “But then Jason had his accident.”
“You guys were always fighting, even during that time…I just can’t believe I didn’t notice how close you were,” Emily said, shaking her head.
Elizabeth shrugged. “I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on, so Jason and I kept teasing and arguing in public. I felt better, my grades went up, you know?” She sighed. “After the accident, when Jason didn’t remember…I thought my life was over. I tried to talk to him, but it’d been so long since we were just friends. Jason had become so much more, Em. I felt like he was the only person I could really trust and I felt so safe around him. I didn’t know how to relate to him anymore, so I tried to revert back to the teasing and arguing we’d always known. But, um, I guess Jason had changed too much.” Elizabeth wiped her eyes. “He wasn’t interested in that type of friendship.”
“What did you do when you didn’t have Jason?” Emily asked, almost afraid of the answer.
Elizabeth looked away. “I hid in the closet. I didn’t sleep for three years. And I barely graduated from high school.”
“Oh, Beth.” Emily sighed. “I wish I could have helped.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I was afraid if I told anyone else, I’d lose them, too. Anyway, you know the rest. On my eighteenth birthday, they dropped the bomb and I moved out.” She sat back and let her head lean on the arm rest. “I still have nightmares some times, but it’s getting better and I’m sleeping more.”
“What happened today that set you off?” Emily asked cautiously. “I’d love to believe that this something you wanted to get off your chest, but I know something had to happen.”
“Well, you know I’m studying business administration at college,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve also been taking creative writing courses. I love writing and I’ve been writing for a long time. I’ve even written three novels.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Emily asked a little hurt.
“I was afraid that they weren’t any good. No one knew. Sonny didn’t know, and neither did Carly. I kept it from everyone.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ears. “Anyway, the first novel was rejected from eight publishers. The second from six. And today, I got the twelfth rejection for the third novel.”
“Oh, God, Beth. I am so sorry.” Emily leaned forward and pulled Elizabeth into a tight hug. “I’m so sorry.”
Elizabeth hugged Emily back, grateful that she wasn’t mad at her for keeping so many secrets. After a few minutes, she pulled away and took another shaky breath. “It’s all right. I’m used to it. And I probably wouldn’t have cried for so long unless…” she trailed off. She grabbed the carton of Chinese food and began eating again. Emily waited patiently. Finally Elizabeth couldn’t avoid it. “I saw Jason in the hallway.”
Emily groaned, “So much for his promise to me.”
“Promise?” Elizabeth asked.
“Yeah, he said he was going to make an effort to be civil,” Emily said. “Oooh, just wait until I get my hands on him-”
“He did make an effort,” Elizabeth assured her.
“Oh.” Emily frowned. “Then what happened?”
Elizabeth sighed. “He asked me if I was all right, because I was crying on the elevator. And, God, Em, when he asked, all I could see was a fifteen year old Jason Quartermaine opening his window one night and asking me if I was all right. It sounded so much the same and I just wanted to scream because he doesn’t remember that he was the only reason I survived, that he was only saying it because he couldn’t just ignore me.” She angrily brushed away tears. “And God help me, I wanted to break down and tell him.”
“What happened, Beth?” Emily asked softly.
“I did what I used to do when Jason would ask me what was going on. I snapped at him. I don’t know why. I know he’s not the same and that he wouldn’t know it’s something I do to avoid talking about something. I know that the Jason that was my entire world is gone and that the Jason that’s here now will never come close to being that. But part of me…” Elizabeth sighed. “Part of me wanted him to try and get it out of me. I don’t know why.” She looked down. “Sometimes I just want to scream.”
Emily sighed. “Beth, I don’t know what I should say.”
Elizabeth looked away. “There’s nothing to say.”
“I think you should talk to Jason.”
Elizabeth’s startled eyes met Emily’s. “No.”
Emily bit her lip. “I don’t mean you should tell him everything. I know what that would take.” She sighed. “But you need to sit down and at least tell him something. He’s walking around wondering why the hell you always jump down his throat. I’ve tried to tell Jason that it’s not that you really hate him or anything.” She chuckled. “I think it’s kind of weird. You are the only person that gets to him. That’s always been true, Beth.”
Elizabeth sighed. “You’re right. I need to tell him something. I can’t avoid him. He’s your brother. He’s AJ’s brother. Sonny and Carly adore him. He’s friends with everyone I am.” She took a deep breath. “I’ll talk to him.”
Emily smiled. “Good.”
Elizabeth stood. “I’m gonna wash my face and do it now.” She checked her watch. “Do you think he’ll still be up?”
Emily nodded, “Do it now before you lose your nerve.”
She nodded and disappeared into the bathroom. Emily leaned against the back of the couch and sighed. How had she missed what was going on? How had Elizabeth been in so much pain without her noticing? How self-absorbed did she have to be?
The phone broke her out of her bout of self-loathing. Sighing, she rubbed her eyes and leaned behind the couch to grab the phone.
“Baby sis, what’s up?”
“AJ!” Emily squealed. “Hey! How are the kids?”
“Oh, they’re great. Kyle took his first steps the other day and we think Melanie’s going to start talking soon.”
“Oh, that’s great. How’s Courtney?”
“She’s good. We’re still happy, nutty girl, putting up with me for this long.” He laughed. “So, listen, how are things in Port Charles?”
Emily sighed and twisted the phone cord around her finger, “Oh, AJ, Jason’s back in town and he and Beth are already at it.”
“Really? They’re still fighting? I’d figured they would have kissed and made up by now.”
“Hold on.” Emily pulled the phone away as Elizabeth reentered the room. “Good luck.”
“Thanks,” Elizabeth said. She gave her a tired smile and disappeared into the hallway.
“I’m back. If Jason were still Jason Quartermaine, I know they’d probably be together.” Emily sighed. “But he’s not and they’re not.”
“Yeah,” AJ’s voice was quiet. “Well, there’s one mistake I can’t ever take back.”
“That’s not what I meant, AJ.”
“Yeah, I know. But that doesn’t make me regret it. Listen, kid, I think it’s time the fearsome foursome was back together. What do you say, I take that vacation Courtney’s been begging me to take and I come home for the summer?”
Emily grinned. “That would be amazing. I know that having the four of us in the same town again…I just know it would be what they need. I know Jason doesn’t remember, but when it comes to us, he’s always willing to listen about the past. And you have to admit, we still get along the same way.”
“Yeah. I’m glad I didn’t destroy everything.” There was pause. “Listen, let me make the arrangements and I’ll get back to you with times. Don’t tell anyone until I know the exact details.”
“I gotta go. Good talking to you. Love ya.”
Emily hung up the phone and grinned. She knew she could probably enlist AJ in her campaign, which would bring the total of Jason and Beth supporters to…er, well four. But it was a start.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and tucked her hair behind her ears. She knocked on the penthouse.
It opened a few seconds later. Jason rubbed his eyes. “What, did you forget an insult?”
She looked down. “I deserve that,” she said softly.
He sighed. Her eyes were still red and puffy. She’d been crying. “What’s wrong?”
“I need to talk to you.” She looked away for a moment and met his eyes. “I think we both need to talk.”
“All right.” He moved aside to let her enter. “I’m sorry about before-”
“No, I’m sorry.” Elizabeth took a shaky breath. “Um, I had no right to snap at you like that. You were just being nice.” She hugged herself and looked away. “The reason we don’t get along…it’s my fault. Not yours.”
“How do you figure?” He shrugged. “It’s not like I don’t fight back.”
“No, what I mean…” Elizabeth exhaled slowly, frustrated. “You know that we were friends before the accident. You, me, Emily and AJ?”
“Yeah. I know that even then we didn’t get along,” Jason replied.
“That’s not really true.” She started wandering around doing her best to avoid his eyes. “We were always teasing each other, but it was pretty good natured. People who didn’t really know us thought we hated each other, but we were actually close.” She cracked her knuckles. “After Emily, you were my best friend. Actually, um, for a few years, we were closer than I was to Emily. You helped me through a really difficult time.” She felt the tears again and blinked them back. “We used to communicate through sarcasm, but you don’t have the same sense of humor so that’s not really possible anymore.”
“Wait, wait.” Jason ran a hand through his hair. “We were good friends.”
Elizabeth nodded, “Yeah.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Does it matter? You wouldn’t have remembered it.” She sighed. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair.” She met his eyes. “I came here to apologize and I want to know if we can call a truce. We have to be able to trust each other, especially now that you’re working with Sonny and me.” She bit her lip. “I know that asking us to be friends is too presumptuous, especially since we can’t relate on the level that we used to, but I just think we need a cease fire.”
“Yeah, I think that it’s definitely called for,” Jason agreed.
“Good.” Elizabeth hesitated. “I suppose you want to know why I snapped at you today.”
“Hey, you’re right. It was your personal business,” Jason replied.
“No, what I mean…Jason Quartermaine used to know when something was wrong. He’d ask and I’d shoot off my mouth hoping to make him mad enough to go away. It never worked and he’d keep pushing until I confessed.” She ran a hand nervously through her hair. “I guess part of me still wanted that to be true.”
“I’m sorry,” Jason said. He didn’t know what else to say. He wished he could find out exactly what he’d done for her before. What difficult time he’d helped her through and why they’d been so close. But it obvious that Elizabeth wasn’t going to tell him any of those things any time soon.
“It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I thought I had let go of him, but I guess I still need work.” Elizabeth smiled a little. “Well, I’d better go. I have work tomorrow and I have to put extra time in on that research for Sonny.”
Jason opened the door. “Thanks for…thanks for coming,” he said, lamely.
“I just hope this is a turning point,” Elizabeth said quietly. She left the penthouse and headed for the elevator.
“You’ve been bad, Lizzie.”
Elizabeth stared up from her bed as her father came closer. He was snapping the belt in his hands. Her terror grew as she realized that she was in her room back home.
“You’ve gone and told our little secret, Lizzie.” Jeff’s face came into view and Elizabeth whimpered.
“But Jason can’t help you now. And he doesn’t want to.” He raised the belt and she screamed….
Elizabeth sat straight up in bed, the gasps exploding from her throat. She tried to control her breathing, but it was impossible. She felt like her lungs were on fire. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t think. She began flailing on her bed.
Emily must have heard the struggle and the door flew open. “Oh my God, Beth!” She rushed to kneel beside Elizabeth’s bed. “What do you need?”
Elizabeth started to cry. She couldn’t get her breathing under control. It was coming in short little erratic breaths and now it felt like her lungs were clamping shut. She started gesturing with her hands.
“You can’t breathe?” Emily cried. She grabbed the phone next to the bed and called 911. She gave the necessary information and hung up. “They told me to keep you calm. Do you want me to call Sonny?”
Elizabeth finally felt the pressure lessening and she began to take some shallow breaths. She nodded her head anyway. Emily grabbed the phone again and dialed the penthouse.