“Sir, Elizabeth Morgan is here.”
Nikolas Cassadine set a file aside and smiled at his secretary. “Show her in, Gia? Thanks.”
After a moment, a flushed and clearly upset Elizabeth entered his office. “I’m not interrupting anything am I?”
Nikolas stood and rounded the desk. “It’s a slow day. I’m between appointments.” He gestured towards a seat. “I was actually expecting you. Jessica told Lucky what happened and he told me.”
Elizabeth frowned for a moment before shaking her head. “No. I’m not here about Olivia. I–I need…” She took a deep breath. “When Lily was born, did you and Emily have any problems?”
Nikolas sighed and took the seat next to her. “We had some adjustment problems at first. It was hard to find time together but eventually Lily started sleeping through the night. Emily quit her job here to stay home with her. Things just got easier.” He took a deep breath. “Honey, I know Jason is in town. Emily was worried about that.”
She sat back in her chair. “I love him, Nikolas. It’s as simple as that. He’s always been it for me and…for a long time–after the divorce I mean, I thought…I thought I might have just been another girl for him. Just someone he’d been comfortable with enough to marry and that if I hadn’t turned into such a hovering mother, he would have stayed.”
“I only met Jason during the few hearings and meetings we had,” Nikolas began, “but I got the distinct impression that he did love you. He never argued with the proposed alimony, doubled that and child support. He gave you a very generous custody agreement. He gets his kid for an average of three months a year while you get her the bulk of the time and also about a million a year in combined child support and alimony. He’d have to be either crazy or in love to have agreed to that.”
Elizabeth glanced at her hands. “He says he loves me. We…talked yesterday about it and for a little while, it felt like we still had a chance.”
“There’s always a chance,” Nikolas assured her. “Even the most bitter divorces…there was love once.”
“I picked a fight with him today,” Elizabeth admitted. “I can say that now. I purposely set him up to say something hurtful so I could have a reason to call it off.” She met his eyes with a sheepish smile. “I still know how his mind works to a certain extent.”
“Why did you do that?” Nikolas asked.
She took a deep shuddering breath. “Because I’m scared. Because some of the most vivid memories of my marriage are the times he walked out the door, leaving me with a nightmare.”
“He didn’t know you were suffering,” he reminded her gently. “What do you think he would have done if he had?”
“I…I never let myself trust him,” she confessed in a tiny broken voice. “Not with Olivia, not with my heart. I couldn’t. I knew…I knew all too well what our marriage could turn into if I let him have all of me.” She exhaled slowly. “I remember hearing my mother crying a lot when my father would be out for the night. I remember hearing their arguments and then later, all of the rumors about women and I just–this was the model I set my visions of marriage on.”
“So why’d you marry someone who had a lifestyle so close to your parents?” Nikolas asked curiously.
“Because I loved him,” Elizabeth told him tearfully. “And I swore to myself that I’d leave him the second I found out he was cheating on me. I also…I never gave him the chance at first. We went everywhere together. I went out with him every night a-and I did everything I could to make him want me–desire me. I worked over time to keep him focused on me.”
“You did this all consciously?” Nikolas asked surprised.
“No. Not at first. I loved him, Nikolas. Almost from the moment I saw him, I loved him and I was selfish enough to want him to be mine forever. I saw the way my mother tried…but she made mistakes, she let him go out too often by himself and she stayed back at the hotel or went to a spa and I just…I guess I figured that’s where she really went wrong. She let him out of her sight.” Elizabeth sighed, her cheeks stained with embarrassment. “I didn’t…after Jason and I got married, it didn’t seem like a lot of work. I really did want to be with him all the time and–” she hesitated.
“You can be blunt with me, Liz,” Nikolas assured her. “I can handle it.”
“Our sex life was good,” Elizabeth said. She took a deep breath. “Really good. And it was…it was constant. He always seemed to want me–even when I just woke up or when I’d be dressed in t-shirt and jeans. He couldn’t…it just felt like he wanted me all the time.”
“Was that a problem for you?” Nikolas asked.
She shook her head. “No. I wanted him just as much. He made me feel damn good, Nikolas. It really didn’t feel like it was real though. I mean…who has a husband who wants her day and night without it tapering off? It was like the honeymoon period never went away.”
“But you still didn’t trust it,” Nikolas said, voicing the obvious. “You didn’t trust him.”
She shook her head slowly. “Looking back, no, I didn’t. I didn’t realize a lot of this then, Nikolas. I really did love him and it never occurred to me at the time that I didn’t trust him. But I don’t. I don’t really trust anyone.”
“And now that he tells you he loves you and wants you back, it’s making you realize this,” Nikolas told her. “That now that you’re confronted with the idea of returning to being his wife, you realize that you put more work into it than you thought at the time.”
“Yeah. I’m scared, Nikolas. Because I want to trust him and I want this to work and it will never work without trust. And he knows I don’t trust him right now so he’s going to be working at trying to regain that but I don’t even know if I’m capable of trusting someone like that.”
“You said you want to trust him,” Nikolas said slowly. “You want to be married to him, to be with him. What’s really keeping you from doing that?”
“I…” Elizabeth hesitated and furrowed her brow. “I guess I’m scared. When you trust someone, you…give a part of yourself to them. And…Nikolas, it almost destroyed me when I ended my marriage. If I let him in…if I really give him my trust along with everything else…when it doesn’t work…what will I be left with?”
“Why are you so sure it won’t work?” Nikolas asked pointedly.
She frowned. “What?”
“You said when it doesn’t work…instead of if.” He shrugged. “Just sounds like you’re expecting it to fail.”
“I guess that goes back to my trust thing,” Elizabeth decided. “I think the only person I trust is Olivia and that’s because I’m always sure of where I stand in her life. I’m always going to be her mother. Nothing can change that. But what am I to Jason?”
Nikolas stood and gave her a small smile. “Maybe you should ask him.”
“You think I should talk to him about this?” Elizabeth asked. She stood and shook her head. “He wouldn’t understand. He’ll think he did something–that I didn’t trust him because of him and it’s not true. It’ll only hurt him–”
“You have to be honest with him, honey. You’ll never get anywhere if you’re not. That’s really where you went wrong the first time. You didn’t tell him about the pills because you didn’t trust him to stay. And he knows that. But he won’t ever understand unless you tell him why.”
“Thanks, Nikolas. As always, you’re the voice of sanity in my life.” She hugged him tightly. “I’m going back to the hospital okay?”
“Will you call me and tell me how it went?” Nikolas asked.
Not long after Elizabeth had fled the room, Jason found himself calling Keesha’s number for the second time.
“Calm down, Morgan, I’ve barely gotten out of the city so I’m not lost yet,” Keesha said immediately.
He chuckled a little. “No. That’s not while I’m calling. What’s taking so long to get out of New York?”
“Traffic is a bitch.” Keesha paused. “If you’re not calling to rag on me, why are you calling?”
“Change of address.” Jason reeled off the penthouse instead. “I’m staying there.”
“What happened? Your motel kick you out?”
“No.” Jason hesitated. “I was staying with Elizabeth but now I’m at the penthouse.”
“Ah, shit. I knew you were doing something stupid. The second you said her name I knew–“
“I love her,” Jason interrupted. “If I do stupid things, it’s understandable. Now that I’ve admitted to myself what disastrous idea my marriage to Elise was, I want to get my life back. I want my wife back.”
“Uh huh. Have you told your wife this?”
“Yes. It’s…not going as well as I would have hoped but I’m optimistic,” Jason told her.
“Jason, I don’t think you should waste your time on–“
“She loves me, Keesha. I know it. And…I just…I have to earn her trust that’s all. I can do that.”
“Jason, what makes you think you even had her trust in the first place?” Keesha demanded. “It always felt like she was just waiting for a reason to end it.”
“You only say that because you don’t know her,” Jason argued. “She’s…she’s different. She grew up like I did but it was different for her. It hurt her in ways I don’t think she’s even realized yet.”
Keesha sighed. “You’re too nice, Morgan. You’ve always been a bleeding heart.”
“Keesha…just go to the penthouse. We’ll talk when you get in okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah. I’ll be calling you in an hour. I’m sure I’ll have gotten my self lost by then.”
He slipped the phone in his pocket and turned to look at Olivia who was still sleeping. He was going to make this family work if it killed him.
An hour after she’d run out on him, Elizabeth slowly pushed the door to the room open.
Jason was looking out the window and the bed was empty. “Hey,” she said softly. “Liv at therapy?”
He looked at her in obvious surprise. “You came back.”
“Yeah. We, ah…” she took a deep breath. “We need to talk.”
He stepped towards her. “Elizabeth, what I said before–I didn’t mean it–”
“No, I know that. I set you up to say it so it doesn’t matter.” Elizabeth sighed. “Come take a walk with me.”
Mystified, he followed her down the hall and into the elevator. “Where are we going?”
“The Port Charles park is next to the hospital,” Elizabeth answered. The elevator opened on the lobby floor and they left the hospital in silence.
They were nearly to the fountain before she started to speak. “I don’t want you to be hurt or misunderstand what I’m going to tell you because this isn’t really about you. It’s about me.”
“I deliberately picked a fight with you,” she told him. She sat on the edge of the stone fountain and looked up at him. “I know how your mind works and I set you up to say something that would give me an excuse to walk away.”
He inhaled sharply and his face paled. “You…you don’t want to work this out?” Jason asked in a quiet, stunned voice.
She closed her eyes. “See, I knew this was going to hurt you and God, Jason, that’s the last thing I want.”
“I don’t understand.” He sat next to her. “Elizabeth, if you didn’t want to get back together–”
“No, that’s not it. Please just let me explain.” She hesitated. “I was scared. When we were together before, it would have never occurred to you that I didn’t trust you. You always assumed that I did and now…now you have a pretty good idea that I don’t and you…you’d be working to make me trust you and that scares me.”
He took a deep breath and clasped his hands between his spread legs. “You didn’t trust me when we were married,” he concluded.
“I don’t trust anyone,” Elizabeth said softly. “I didn’t…I didn’t realize I didn’t trust you until it occurred to me that it didn’t surprise me about the clipping.”
He glanced at her with some confusion. “What?”
“When I saw that clipping of you with the woman, it hurt. It upset me. It made me want to scream and rip my hair out. But it didn’t surprise me.”
He stood suddenly and took a few steps away. He couldn’t look at her. Not only did she not trust him now, but she’d never trusted him. She’d always expected him to do what her father had. Oh, man…he’d never seen this coming.
“Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are my parents fighting about other women,” Elizabeth confessed brokenly. “And you…you were so much like my father, Jason. You led the same life style, you had almost the same type of job. I just…I did everything I could to keep myself from being my mother and I did such a good job of it that I never even knew I was doing it.”
He turned to face her, her eyes bloodshot, her lips trembling. “What exactly do you mean by that?” Jason asked carefully.
“The reason I went to every business dinner I could…why I never really argued when you wanted to go out or take a spontaneous trip was because I wanted to avoid what I had obviously decided my mother had done wrong.”
“You didn’t want to let me out of your sight.” He blinked and swallowed hard. “You didn’t even trust me a little.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She stood and hugged herself tightly. “I’m so sorry, Jason. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Until I was faced with the idea of being with you again and it scared me. Because now you knew I didn’t trust you. And you would want me to trust you so you’d be working at it and I realized that I don’t…it terrifies me.”
He could see it. Her body was trembling, her arms were wrapped tightly around her upper body, her eyes were glossy with tears. “Why?” he asked hoarsely. “Why does the thought of giving your trust to me terrify you?”
“It’s not just you, it’s everyone,” she whispered. “When you trust, you give a piece of yourself away. It’s something that’s more intimate than love, that goes deeper than love, it’s something that is it at the very foundation of any relationship you ever have.” She took a deep breath. “I r-remember my mother crying so much. Because to the public, she was a society wife. One that expected her husband to seek a life outside her bedroom but she loved him. A-and it tore at her for him to be with other women.”
He stepped towards her. “You are not your mother and I am not your father. Baby, what we had–what we have is so different from them.”
“I know,” she managed to say past the tightness in her throat. “And that scares me. When I…after you packed your bags and moved out, I could barely function. It nearly destroyed me–losing you the first time. I only had Olivia to keep me going. But if I do this…if we make an attempt…and I give you my trust and something happens, I really think that it’ll be the end of me.”
He put a hand on her shoulder then. Slow, cautious steps. He didn’t want to spook her–she was already so shaky he was afraid she’d call the whole thing off right now. “Elizabeth, trust…it’s a risk and I want you to know that I understand. I know how much your parents marriage hurt you and that I think you’re still hurting from it. But I love you. I love you so much and when I lost you, it did destroy me. You can ask Keesha. I spent that first month in her apartment in New York. That’s why I didn’t respond to your attorney’s motions and letters. I wasn’t ignoring it, I couldn’t…I couldn’t deal with it.”
“I’m so sorry I hurt you,” she whispered. She stepped towards him and rested her forehead against his chest. “I’m so sorry…” she started to cry then and he took her in his arms them. “I just…I don’t want to be scared anymore.”
He held her tightly and after a few moments, her arms slowly moved around his waist and she clung to him.
The sound of his cell phone broke their embrace and he pulled away with an apologetic smile. He took it out of his pocket. “Hello?”
She was close enough to him that she could hear a woman’s voice. “Okay, so I was on the highway and I think I accidentally took an exit and it’s possible I’m on my way to Ohio or something.”
He started to laugh then. “Oh, Keesha, you really need to take some map courses.”
“Ah, bite me Morgan. Will you just get me back on the right road? I have no inclination to visit the Midwest today.”