She pulled away from him after a moment and took a step back. “We should get to the hospital,” she told him quietly. “Olivia’s probably wondering where we are.”
He gently grabbed her by her forearms to keep her in place. “Elizabeth, you can’t just drop this all on me and walk away. We have to talk about this.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.” She shrugged. “It’s over. It’s ancient history. It was a bad time in my life and I got through it.”
“How?” he demanded. “You just said you were addicted to sleeping pills. I somehow doubt that it just went away because of the divorce.”
“I met Emily Cassadine through her husband–he was my lawyer during the divorce and I…” Elizabeth sighed. “I had a bad night and Emily stopped by the next morning to drop off some papers about the custody hearings and she saw the bottle.”
“How many were you taking?” he demanded.
“I don’t…I don’t really remember. Two or three. Just enough to help me to sleep at night, you know? Sometimes it was more and some nights I didn’t need them.” She rubbed her forehead. “Do we have to talk about this? I just want to get to the hospital.”
“What happened after she saw the bottle?” Jason pressed anyway. She’d been going through this even after he’d moved out. All the times he’d seen her at various divorce proceedings, she’d been dealing with this. He’d once known how to read her every mood–her every emotion. Had she gotten better at hiding it…or had he stopped looking?
“She, ah, she asked me about them. Wanted to know why I was taking them and then it just…I started to cry and she seemed to understand. She was a new mother herself and all. She introduced me to Jessica, because they’re sisters-in-law and I just…they started bringing their daughters over and I stopped needing the pills to sleep. And Olivia was starting to sleep through the night finally. It just kind of…it went away.”
“It just went away,” Jason repeated. “So you never saw any kind of counselor or anything?”
She glared at him. “Why? I didn’t need anyone. I got through it. I’m fine. I raised Olivia by myself and she’s fine.”
His jaw clenched. “You did not raise her by herself. She is still my daughter.”
“But I saw her on her first day of nursery school and kindergarten. You got her on summer vacations but I had to do the bulk of the parenting,” Elizabeth retorted.
He released her arms and stepped away. “We are not going to have this argument again. Maybe I haven’t always been there every time Olivia’s needed me but I am her father and I love her.”
“Whatever. Can we just go to the hospital now?” Elizabeth asked. “It’s been over an hour since you got here and I just…I need to see her.”
“Fine.” He left the kitchen, not even waiting for her to follow. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before following him.
Olivia was sitting up in bed, eating lunch when her parents arrived. She was on a steady stream of drugs so she couldn’t feel the different stitches and wounds and her bruises and cuts were already starting to heal.
“Mommy!” Olivia chirped. “You’re here!”
“Hey, baby,” Elizabeth greeted, kissing her daughter on the forehead. “I’m sorry I’m so late.”
“It’s okay. Daddy said you really tired from staying up the last two days and you slept in,” Olivia replied. “Did you forget to set your alarm clock again?” she chastised.
Elizabeth smiled and sat down. “Yeah. I fell asleep in the sun room and you know I don’t have the alarm in there.” Her smile was bright. “You feeling okay?”
Olivia nodded vigorously. “Dr. Jones gave me Robacko-syn,” she said. “He says I won’t feel a thing.”
“Robaxin,” Jason corrected. He sat in the chair next to Elizabeth. “And that was just through the testing this morning.”
Olivia shrugged. “Whatever.” She grinned a big toothy smile. “Guess what, Mommy? Daddy’s moving home!”
“I know,” Elizabeth replied. “I bet you’ll be glad when you don’t have to get on a plane for six hours to see him.”
Olivia nodded again. “Yeah and I been doing some thinking and I wanna be the flower girl.”
Elizabeth’s smile faltered and she traded a troubled look with Jason. “F-flower girl?”
Olivia nodded. “Yeah. Daddy’s coming home so you’re gonna have ta get married again. Kristina was a bridesmaid when her mommy married her daddy and she got to wear this really really pretty dress and carry flowers petals. Can I do that?”
Jason sighed and looked away. Elizabeth bit her lip. “Baby, I don’t think you quite understand.”
Some of the brightness in their daughter’s dimmed but her smile stayed strong. “Well if I can’t be the flower girl, can I still wear a really pretty dress?”
“Princess, I’m moving to Port Charles,” Jason told her gently. “But I’m not moving into the house. Elise and I are going live in a penthouse downtown.”
Olivia’s lower lip trembled. “B-but I thought you was coming home, Daddy. You said…you said I was gonna be your first pri-rity and I don’t really know what that means but home isn’t with Elise, it’s with me and Mommy.”
“Baby…” Elizabeth trailed off, not knowing to respond to her daughter’s words.
“You are going to be my first priority,” Jason told her, distraught at having upset her. “And that means I’m going to put you first–before anything else in my life. But my home isn’t at the house.”
The little girl’s eyes welled up with tears and she sniffled. “Don’t you love Mommy anymore?”
Elizabeth stood abruptly. “I’m going to leave the two of you alone.” She kissed Olivia. “I want to go talk to Dr. Jones, okay baby?”
Olivia started to cry. “Why don’t you want to come home, Daddy?”
Jason moved into Elizabeth’s vacated seat to be closer to her. “Baby, it’s not that I don’t want to come home–”
“Then do it,” she sobbed. She wrapped her arms around her tiny torso and started to rock back and forth. “If you love Mommy and she loves you, why can’t you just come home?”
“It doesn’t work like that, Olivia,” Jason tried to reason. He smoothed his hand over her hair. “We’ve talked about this.”
“But you never answer,” Olivia said mournfully. She wiped at her eyes and tried to calm down, her breaths coming in short hitching gasps. “You just say it doesn’t work like that but I don’t get it. You love Mommy don’t you?”
“More than anything in the world,” Jason confided. “You and your mother are very important to me and all that matters is your happiness.”
“We aren’t happy,” Olivia complained. “Mommy always looks sad a-and I don’t like when you’re not around.”
Jason filed her words about Elizabeth away for the moment. “I am going to be around. I’ll be ten minutes away and you can spend every weekend with me and I’ll even join the PTA thing that your mom does.”
“But you won’t be at home,” Olivia protested. “I can’t get up and go in to see you every morning a-and when I have a nightmare, you can’t come into my room and make the monsters go away.”
Jason lowered his head and took a deep breath. She was right. He couldn’t do that. He’d forfeited his right to be a full-time dad when he’d put his old life in front of his marriage. “I know,” he sighed. “But I can’t change how things are.”
“Yes you can,” she said stubbornly. “Leave Elise in Europe and come home. She likes it better there and Mommy misses you. She’s always lookin’ at pictures of you and stuff. If you come home, she won’t be so sad.”
“Baby, when you’re older, you’ll understand this better,” Jason told her. “But I’m not moving back into the house. It’s just not going to happen.”
Olivia slid down on the bed, wincing a little when the sheet would catch on one of her stitches. When she was flat on her back, she turned away from him, her tiny shoulders shaking with her sobs.
“I’m so sorry,” he said softly. He stood and left the room. He needed to get out of there and fast.
Elizabeth was leaning against the opposite wall. “Is she okay?” she asked.
Jason shook his head. “She’s still crying. I just…I hate disappointing her. All I want to do is give her what she wants and I can’t do that.”
“I wish we could have handled this better,” Elizabeth murmured. “Presented it in a way that she wouldn’t have gotten the wrong idea.”
He shook his head. “Let’s face it–neither one of us even thought she’d get this idea. I don’t…I don’t understand why this means so much to her. We haven’t been together since before she could remember.”
“I guess it’s because all of her friends are together. Port Charles is very provincial in that aspect. I had to call in a favor just to get Nikolas Cassadine to act as my divorce lawyer. Olivia’s the only child in her class with divorced parents.”
“She’ll get used to it,” Jason said, more to convince himself than her. “She will eventually. She’ll adjust a-and I’ll figure out how I can live in the same town and still not be a full-time parent.”
Elizabeth’s eyes softened. “You can see her whenever you want, you know that right?” She folded her arms across her chest. “The custody arrangement–we can change that now you’ll be closer.”
“I appreciate that,” he replied. He sighed. “Did you talk to the doctor?”
She shook her head. “No. He wasn’t in.” She took a deep breath. “We, ah, should go inside. Maybe she’s okay.”
“You go. I need to call Elise, I haven’t gotten in touch with her since I left,” he told her.
Her shoulders tensed at the mention of his second wife, but she just nodded and entered the hospital room while he went in search of a payphone.
Olivia’s cries had turned into sniffles and she looked at her mother tearfully when she entered.
“Baby, I’m so sorry you’re upset,” Elizabeth said, sitting down and sighing. “We didn’t think…”
“If you weren’t gonna stay together, you never shoulda had me,” Olivia said angrily.
Elizabeth blanched. “Don’t say that, Livvie. I love you so much and your daddy adores you–”
“People shouldn’t get divorced if they have kids,” her daughter cut in with an angry glare.
“It’s not that simple,” Elizabeth protested. “Having you in our lives has been the best thing for both of us. Some people just aren’t meant to be together.”
“I don’t get it. If you aren’t meant to be together, then why get married in the first place?”
“We thought we were,” Elizabeth tried to explain. “We were very young when we got married, baby. We didn’t realize how hard it could be–”
“Lots of things is hard,” Olivia interrupted. “Like when I had to learn how to print my name a-and you made me even though I couldn’t do it. You shoulda tried harder.”
“I did try, I tried so hard,” Elizabeth said, her throat tight and her eyes burning. “I wanted it to work, baby, you have to believe me. I loved your daddy so much and I loved you so much and I just wanted us to be a family–”
“Why can’t we?” she demanded. “Daddy still loves you, he told me so and you always say you love him. He could just leave Elise in Europe. She likes it there anyway a-and you can get married again and you could be in love together.”
“I think you misunderstood him. He’s married to someone else and he’s in love with her–”
“Nuh uh, they never ever said it to each other in front of me and Daddy’s never said anything about loving Elise. He said he loves you more than anything.”
Elizabeth’s breath caught in her throat and she looked away. “Baby–”
“He told me he wants to come home so it’s got to be you who won’t let him.” Olivia leaned forward. “So just tell him you want to be a family again.”
“It’s not going to happen,” Elizabeth told her sharply. She stood abruptly. “Just drop it.”
Olivia glared at her defiantly. “I hate you!”
Stung, Elizabeth looked away. “I’m going to the cafeteria to get something to drink. Do you want anything?”
“I want Daddy to come home!” she shrieked.
“I’ll be right back.” Elizabeth grabbed her purse and hurried out the door.
Jason rubbed his forehead. “El–Elise–Elise, just–Elise, listen to me for a second–”
“No!” his wife snapped. “You just decide we’re going to move to some hick little town so you can assuage your guilty complex about not being there when Liv needed you and you think I’m going to be okay with it?”
“It’s not like we still won’t be around the same friends,” Jason protested. “I just want to be around Olivia more. She’s going to have a long therapy process and she needs both her parents.”
“Well isn’t that just peachy,” Elise snapped. “Look, I let you pretty much decide our entire lives but this is unacceptable. When I agreed to marry you, I was expecting a certain quality of life and living in some crap town in upstate New York is not going to happen.”
“So you want to live there, that’s fine, but don’t expect me to follow, do you understand?” The sound of a phone slamming down echoed in his ear and Jason gently put hung up the payphone. He hadn’t expected Elise to take the news well, but he hadn’t really expected her violent rejection of the idea either.
He started back towards Olivia’s room just as Elizabeth rushed out of it and took off down the hall. Concerned, he went after to her and caught up to her just as she reached the elevators.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
Elizabeth’s hands were shaking as she pushed the button to open the doors. “I’m going to get a soda. You–you should go sit with her.”
The doors slid open and she hurried inside. Before they slid shut, he entered and pressed the button for the first floor where the cafeteria was located.
“What happened?” he demanded. Her cheeks were tearstained, her eyes were bloodshot. She’d looked fine ten minutes ago.
“I…Olivia kept asking why you couldn’t come home and I tried to tell her all the things we always prepared. About how sometimes people just shouldn’t live together a-and you’ve gotten married again but she kept pushing…” Elizabeth sucked in a deep shuddering breath. “She really wants this Jason. More than I ever suspected. She told me that you told her you wanted to come home and that you still loved me–and that I was the one keeping it from happening…” her voice broke and faltered. “When I told her it just wasn’t going to happen, she said–she said…”
Jason stepped closer to her and touched her arm. “What?”
“She said she hated me,” Elizabeth said tearfully. Her hands were trembling violently as she reached up to brush them away. “She’s never said that before and I just…I’ve sacrificed everything for her–I’ve tried so hard to be the kind of mother she deserves…how can she say that?”
Without thinking, Jason pulled her into his arms. “She didn’t mean it,” he told her quietly. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around him and leaned into the embrace gladly. She’d missed so much. “I’ve said it to my parents and you’ve said it yours. Kids say it. They don’t understand how much it hurts until their kids say it to them.”
“It just hurts so much more than I ever thought it could. It was like she just sliced right through my heart.” She pressed her face into his shirt and he could already feel her warm tears seeping through his shirt.
“It’s okay, baby, she didn’t mean it,” Jason soothed. He pressed a kiss to her hair and closed his eyes. “You’re so good to her, Elizabeth, you’re exactly the type of mother you wanted to be.”
“I just…I’m so tired,” she whispered. “You’re right. I live for her and it’s so unhealthy and I think I’ve known that all along but I just don’t know to change that and if she’s going to hate me, I don’t know what else to do.”
He smoothed a hand down her spine and then up again. “She doesn’t hate you. She didn’t mean it.”
“You weren’t there,” she whispered. “You didn’t see her face.”
He pulled away and gently kissed her forehead. “She loves you, Elizabeth,” he told her softly. The elevator doors opened then and she looked at him. “You go get your soda and I’ll meet you in the room, okay?”
“Okay,” she replied. She left the elevator and he hit the button for the tenth floor.
Olivia glared at her father as he opened the door and stood at the foot her bed, his face serious and his arms crossed.
“When your mother comes back in here, you’re going to apologize.”
“For saying that you hated her,” Jason replied. He frowned. “You disappoint me, you really do.”
Olivia scowled. “She won’t let you come home. I do hate her. This is all her fault!”
“This is not your mother’s fault.” Jason hesitated. “It’s mine. When you were born, I wasn’t ready to stop traveling like I do now and your mother wanted me to. She was upset and we fought a lot. We got divorced. It happens every day a thousand different places. Yes, we loved each other. And yeah, we probably still do but we’re not going to get back together and this is not her fault.”
“But you want to come back home and she won’t let you–”
Jason sighed. “Honey, that’s not what I said. Look, it’s complicated and sometime even your mom and me don’t understand. But we both love you and you really upset her by saying that.”
Olivia hesitated. “Did I?”
Jason nodded. “She was crying in the elevator. After everything she’s done to give you a better childhood than she had, you really disappoint me.”
“I didn’t mean to make her cry,” she said in a tiny voice.
“Because she sat here for two days straight waiting for you to wake up. I had to force her to leave the room or get something to eat. And she was more ecstatic than anyone when you did wake up, so now you telling her you hate her and making her cry, that’s not very nice of you, Olivia and I thought you were better than that.”
Her lower lip started to tremble. “I don’t hate her, Daddy. I was just mad. Cuz I want us to be a family.”
He sighed and sat next to her. “Baby, we are a family. You, me and your mother. We don’t live together like normal families, but that doesn’t make us any less of a family, okay?”
“Can I still wish you’d get married again?” Olivia asked hopefully.
“You can wish it, honey, but please don’t get angry when it doesn’t happen.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
The door opened and Elizabeth entered hesitantly, a can of Mountain Dew in her hand. “Hey.”
“Mommy!” Olivia cried. “I’m so sorry I said I hated you because I don’t hate you, I love you, and I’m really really sorry.”
Tears sprang to Elizabeth’s eyes and set her things down to go to her daughter and hugged her as tightly as she could without jarring any of the stitches. “It’s okay, baby, I love you, too.”
“I’m really sorry, Mommy, I didn’t mean to make you cry!”
“Shhh…it’s okay, it’s okay now.”
The door opened again and Dr. Jones entered. “Hey, I’m sorry to interrupt. But I need to examine Olivia and take her for some more tests.”
Elizabeth pulled away and wiped her eyes. “Sure. What kind of tests?”
“We’re trying to work out the best type of therapy for our little patient,” he said with a kind smile. “I’m sure Olivia wants to get started as soon as possible.”
Olivia nodded. “Yeah, I do.”
“While he’s doing that,” Elizabeth began, “can I talk to you in the hall?” she asked Jason.
“Sure.” He looked at Olivia. “We’ll be right back baby.”
Once they were outside, she surprised him by hugging him tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered into his chest. “I know you told her to do it, but it meant a lot to me.”
He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her slender shoulders. “I hate when you cry. I always try to fix it.”
“I know,” she sniffled. “It’s one of the reasons I loved you.”