— February 20, 1945 —
Elizabeth was shuffling through a stack of papers and some letters when Jason woke that morning. She always arrived before he woke and didn’t leave until after he went to sleep. He wondered how much sleep she was getting, but he was so grateful for her presence he didn’t think of it much.
“Morning,” she chirped. She smiled brightly at him. “How’d you sleep?”
“Fine,” Jason answered. He shifted and sat up. “What’re all those?”
“Mail,” Elizabeth replied. “Courtney Quartermaine, the girl I left in charge of Kelly’s, she sent me some invoices, order forms and things. There’s a letter from Caroline, too. You’ve got some mail, too. A letter from Sonny and one from Johnny.” She handed him the letters and started to open her letter from Caroline. “I think I’ll work on the diner stuff while you’re in the therapy room.”
“I have to do that again today?” he asked, irritated.
She laughed. “You have to do it every day. You want to walk right?” She started to skim Caroline’s letter. “Oh my God!” she squealed.
“What?” he asked.
“Ned asked Caroline to marry him!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “This is so exciting, she wants me to be the maid of honor!”
“How long have they been together?” Jason asked, eying his false fiancée.
“Oh, god, since Ned returned from Harvard Business School,” Elizabeth replied. “About four years now. Caroline just adores him.” She sighed and set the letter aside. “It must be so exciting for her to be getting married.”
He frowned. “Do you want to get married?”
She glanced up at him, her heart skipping a beat at the question. She laughed, thinking herself silly. “I guess, some day. Mr. Holden is always telling me that I should already be married. He married his wife when they were barely eighteen. I keep telling him I’m only nineteen, that’s there’s time but he just won’t listen.” She laughed. “He made me promise that he can walk me down the aisle.” Elizabeth shrugged. “But, sure I guess I do want to get married. What about you?”
“I guess. I mean, my dad left my mom when I was only three,” Jason told her. “But I don’t think all marriages are like that. Your Mr. Holden and his wife seemed to get along pretty well.”
“Oh, they were so sweet. The used to come in for coffee every Sunday after church,” Elizabeth told him. “He worshipped her. Some men come in and complain about their wives. Not Mr. Holden. It was always about how beautiful his Sadie was and how kind and compassionate and how much he missed her. He couldn’t say enough wonderful things about her.”
“It does sound worth it. I mean, if you marry the right person for the right reasons,” Jason replied.
“Well, I’m not getting married unless I’m in love,” Elizabeth told him. “My parents got married because they were from the right families and were the right age and everything was right…I don’t want that for me. I want my husband to love me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Jason said. “I think everyone wants that. You shouldn’t have to settle for less.”
“Exactly,” Elizabeth said, smiling. “You get it–my grandmother never did. She kept trying to get me to get engaged to one of the Quartermaine kids, like AJ. But then he went and eloped with Courtney. The family never got over that–she’s just a waitress after all. It’s not like she owns the place.”
“Some people are just snobs,” Jason replied. “Port Charles is really old-fashioned that way, isn’t it?”
“What? Because we have snobs and people marry because of the right families? I don’t think that’ll ever go out of fashion,” Elizabeth replied. “Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother was a wonderful person and I adored her. But she always equated money and success with happiness and I just don’t map my life out like that.”
“So you’d be happy with a garage mechanic from Wilmington?” Jason asked, his tone half-serious, half-teasing.
She studied him for a moment before answering. “I think I’d be very happy with a garage mechanic from Wilmington,” Elizabeth replied softly and completely serious.
They stared at each other until Dr. Hardy entered. “Good morning, kids,” he greeted cheerfully. “Time for therapy.”
Jason grimaced. “Can’t I skip a day?”
Dr. Hardy laughed. “No. But the quicker you get through this, the quicker you and your fiancée can walk down the aisle.”
Elizabeth flushed, as she had every time someone had referred to their upcoming wedding or their engagement. It was almost ridiculous, but she was really getting attached to this idea. Seeing Jason, getting to know him more…
“Well, then I guess I’d get started,” Jason replied. Elizabeth stood and retrieved the wheelchair from the corner of the room. They’d fallen into a routine the last three days. She’d help him into a wheelchair, wheel him to the therapy room with Dr. Hardy at their side and then she’d retreat to the small courtyard where she’d work on diner business, write letters or read a book. Jason would meet her there and they’d eat lunch before he returned for another round of therapy.
After therapy was done for the day, they’d go back to his room where she’d give him the dinner she’d brought from town. The breakfast here was okay, but they’d quickly learned that the military hospital food was worse than normal hospital food. Elizabeth had found a diner across the street from the boarding house and had taken to getting lunch and dinner there.
After dinner, they’d play cards or she’d write a letter for him since he was left-handed and had trouble writing with his burned hand. Once he’d fallen asleep, she’d leave and return early in the morning.
She was attached to this routine and it made her feel good to be doing something for him. They were both alone in the world and she liked being around him. She liked it a lot.
“I’ll see you for lunch,” Elizabeth told Jason when they reached the room. “Have fun.”
He grimaced. “Yeah. Right.”
She laughed and kissed his cheek. “I’ll be in the courtyard.”
Jason stared after her as she walked away and Dr. Hardy smiled. “That’s a sweet girl you got yourself there, Private Morgan.”
“Yeah, she is, isn’t she?” Jason replied. He frowned. “I don’t see a lot of the other wives and girlfriends around here.”
Dr. Hardy shrugged and wheeled him inside the room. “Well, a lot of the soldiers are from all over the country and their wives can’t afford to come to LA and stay for a long time. And for some, it depresses them. Your Ms. Webber is a refreshing rarity around here. Don’t let that one go.”
— Courtyard —
Elizabeth set aside her invoices and started going through the stack of bills Courtney had forwarded.
“You know, you don’t realize how tall you are until you don’t stand up for a while.”
At the sound of Jason’s voice, Elizabeth glanced up and squealed. “Oh my god, you’re walking!”
He nodded and lowered himself onto the bench next to the table. “Short distances. With a cane.”
“That’s incredible!” She stood and switched sides, sitting next to him so she could hug him. “I am so excited. I can’t believe how much progress you’ve made!”
“Yeah, Dr. Hardy was surprised, too,” Jason replied. “I want to thank you…for staying these last few days. It’s really…it’s really helped.”
She smiled. “It’s no big deal. I wanted to stay.” She bit her lip and looked away.
“But I’m getting better now. I’ll probably be out of here in a few weeks,” Jason told her.
Elizabeth stared at him. “You want me to leave?” she asked, hurt. She looked down at the wooden table, blinking at the stinging tears. She’d been so stupid. Allowed herself to get attached to her role as the doting fiancée. Now she’d have to back to serving coffee to happy couples and being by herself.
“It’s not that,” Jason told her. “I just don’t want you putting your life on hold for me.”
“I don’t feel like that’s what I’ve been doing,” she said softly. “I…” Elizabeth trailed off and looked away. “Never mind. I’ll just…I’ll say goodbye to Dr. Hardy on my way to get my bag from your room.”
“Elizabeth, wait,” Jason said, grasping her elbow before should could stand. “I don’t want you to leave.”
“Then why did you even bring it up?” she asked.
“Because I don’t’ want you to stay out of obligation, either.” He met her eyes. “I haven’t really had anyone in my life, not like this. It was me and my mother until she moved to Florida. Sonny, Johnny, Zander…they’re friends but now that I’m out the war, I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again.”
“I know it’s stupid, but since you’ve been here and everyone thinks we’re engaged, I…guess…I let myself want it to be true. I like the idea of spending all this time with someone, with you.”
“I feel the same way,” Elizabeth replied. “And it’s not stupid. I mean…we’re pretending to be engaged. It’s natural to get attached to the idea.”
“It’s not the idea I’m getting attached to,” Jason told her.
She looked away and flushed. “We…we should eat before you have to back.”
“Dr. Hardy’s springing me this weekend, just for a few hours,” he reported. Elizabeth refused to meet his eyes as she unpacked the picnic hamper and placed a paper plate in front of him and pulled out some sandwiches.
“There’s a movie house in town.”
“I noticed. I pass it on my way here,” Elizabeth replied.
“Do you want to see a movie?” Jason asked.
She frowned. “Are you…are you asking me out on a date?” she asked incredulously.
“Well, it’s not a date exactly,” Jason replied. “We are already engaged, after all.”
She sighed. “That’s true.” She studied him. “What’s going on here?”
“What do you mean?” Jason asked, as she unwrapped a sandwich to put on his plate.
“We barely know each other,” Elizabeth protested.
He frowned. “How can you say that? We’ve been writing each other since August. We’ve spent every waking moment of the last four days together.” He reached across the table and took her hand in his. “I care about you. And I think…there’s something between us.”
She hesitated. “So…what’s playing?”