December 3, 2023

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 63 minutes.

Elizabeth would have made a clean exit from the building if not for Mike Corbin leaving the storage room. She crashed into him and nearly went to the floor but the older man took her by the elbow and kept her upright.

“Whoa, honey. What are you in such a rush for?”

“I—” Elizabeth pressed her lips together, shook her head. She couldn’t speak. Didn’t want to. The rush of righteous anger had evaporated, and everything was swirling, crawling up her throat, and if she opened her mouth, it would just pour out and she might never close it all up again—

“Come here. Come on. Come into the kitchen.” Gently, Mike ushered down the back hallway into the club’s kitchen. Though Luke’s wasn’t known for its cuisine, it served the basic bar dishes and the burgers weren’t half bad, especially after a few drinks.  Mike was the kitchen manager — a position Luke had given him to keep Mike and Sonny, his son, from coming into contact all that much.

Mike pushed her onto a stool in the prep area and went to the sink to pour a glass of water. “You were coming from upstairs, so I guess you had a run in with Jason.”

Elizabeth nodded, sipped the water, but still didn’t trust her voice. Mike sat across from her, folded his arms, and looked at her kindly. “I argued with Luke, you know. And to the extent Michael listens to me when I have something to say, I argued with him, too. I don’t think it was fair to push you or Jason into dealing with each other until you were ready.”

She closed her eyes. “Jason didn’t have any idea about the conservatorship,” she admitted, and was relieved when her words were steady. “I mean, I figured as much, but it was…I did too much, Mike. I pushed too much on him, just like the Quartermaines, and I told myself I wouldn’t, but I just—”

She pressed the heel of her palm into her eye, the other hand gripping the glass tightly. “He was looking at the picture of us. We took one photo of us, one professional one, I mean. Just before the accident. I wanted it for our Christmas card. The first one as a family, and I had in my wallet, and I shoved it at him to prove what I was saying — and he just stared at it—”

“I know the picture, honey.” Mike reached into his back pocket, retrieved his own wallet. “We all carry it, you know. I was proud when you gave me a copy. To be included.”

Elizabeth took the photo he handed her. “It’s just—he stared at it, and I thought he wanted to know her, and then I realized he didn’t want to be told things. He wanted to know them. And so…I gave him so much—” She smiled wanly. “Marriage and birth certificates. His medical school stuff. Bank statements. Legal records. The baby book. I wanted him to know her. I just—” She bit her lip. “I wanted him to love her again, and it’s selfish because I know it’s not possible—”

“Why not, honey? Why couldn’t he look at all of that, and feel how much he’d loved that little girl?” Mike asked. He put a hand on her wrist. “It’s not selfish to want to share that—”

“It is selfish, Mike. Because I’m alone with it all now—I know you…I know you all cared and loved her. You’re my family. But it’s not the way Jason and I—and now it’s just me, so it’s selfish to drag him back into it. But I just thought…” She sipped her water. “He only asked about the hospital. Why I wasn’t there. I should have given him the legal stuff and left, but he was asking questions, and I just—I thought for a minute…”

“He’d remember?”

“No. Yes. No. I know it’s not possible. It’s not amnesia. I know he’s not the same. I can see it, you know? The way he holds himself, the way he looks — it just isn’t the same.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “And he can’t…the labels on the bottles, and pictures. I know he has injuries that aren’t going to heal. Processing, I think. And the memories — they’re not locked up waiting to be found. They’re gone. I know that. But I just—”

She shook her head. “I wasn’t ready for what it would be like. To sit across from him, to have all that history, and know I’m the only one who carries it now. It was harder than I thought, and I went too far. I tried too hard to make him know who he used to be, and now he’s angry at me, and I feel terrible.”

“Then you let him have a few minutes,” Mike said, patting her hand again. “A day maybe. You let him be, and let him come to you. You gave him a lot to process, honey, and now you need to let him do it. Patience. Which isn’t something you’re good at.”

“No.” And now she smiled faintly. “I know that. It’s why we were such a good match, you know? I was impulsive and reckless, and Jason was contemplative and patient, and we balanced. Now…we’re nothing, and it’s…losing him all over again.” She sighed, gave him back the photo. “But you’re right. I gave him a lot of information. What he does with it—that’ll be his choice. Thanks, Mike.”

“Anytime, sweetheart.”


While waiting for Justus Ward, another one of the cousins, Jason ignored the papers Elizabeth had brought, leaving them piled on the small kitchen table. Instead, he sat on the tiny twin bed and paged through one of the magazines he’d found in Luke’s office. He liked to read, he thought, because the letters were in simple, clear, print and they made sense to him.

Maybe he’d get a library card. Or did he have one? Probably. He’d be able to do that now that he had an address. He didn’t know why that mattered, only that it did. One of those mysterious pieces of knowledge he didn’t always understand, but knew to be true.

The only thing he’d kept away from the table had been the baby book. It sat on the little square table next to the bed next to a brass-plated lamp. Jason had already read it twice, and knew there wasn’t anything more to find in it, but there was something about it that he didn’t quite want to let go of.

He’d have to return it to Elizabeth at some point — she remembered the baby, and he didn’t, so it was hers. But for now—

The knock came almost two hours after the phone call, and Jason hurried to pull open the door. Justus stood on the other side, a few inches taller and a handful of years older. He’d graduated from law school, Jason remembered. Had practiced for a few years. He’d understand the documents.

“Sorry, I had a meeting with a client.” Justus stepped in, his dark suit rumpled. He pulled at the tie around his neck. “You said you had something for me to look at?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Jason closed the door. “But first, I need you to answer two questions.” He turned to look at the cousin. His cousin, Jason tried to remember, though he wasn’t sure if he was ready to claim that. There was the legal and biological relationship, which he understood. Justus’s father had been Bradley Ward, brother to Alan and son of Edward. Which made him a cousin.

But being a cousin didn’t mean Jason to claim him as his, and the distinction mattered in his head. He didn’t really know why, only that it was more comfortable to think about the relationships in clear terms.

“What’s up?” Justus looked around the room. “Luke really could have done more with this place, but I’m not surprised he didn’t.”

“It’s fine. I don’t need much. My questions.” Jason considered the wording. He didn’t want to be angry. He’d been angrier earlier, more angry than he should have been, and he didn’t like that. He didn’t want to be out of control. To hurt people, and Elizabeth had been hurt. He needed to try harder. He would try harder. “Why didn’t you tell me about Elizabeth and did you know Alan and Edward went to court and got a conservatorship?”

Justus’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared. “A conservatorship? What the—Are you kidding me? What the hell?”

The reaction felt sincere, so Jason decided to believe him. He crossed to the table, sifted through the pile until he found the folder Elizabeth had given him. “Elizabeth. She got divorce papers from the court. Filed on behalf of the conservatorship.”

“You’ve got to be joking—” Justus cross to him, yanked the paper from Jason’s hand, though the action and words didn’t feel directed as Jason, so he didn’t take offense. “Holy fuck,” his cousin said, scanning the opening lines. “This—yeah, okay. That’s what this document is saying.” He looked at Jason. “No, I sure as hell didn’t know about this! And I can guarantee no one else in the family does either! Ned would have roasted their nuts for this!”

Some of the tightness eased in Jason’s chest. He hadn’t liked most of the family, but he’d understood them. The cousins. The sister. They’d all been nice. And the grandmother. He wouldn’t have minded calling them his, except they were connected to the father and the grandfather, and Jason didn’t want them.

“You didn’t know.”

“No. And neither did Lila or Emily. They never would have gone for this. Or kept it from you—” Justus hesitated. “Though considering we didn’t talk about Elizabeth, maybe you don’t believe that.”

“I don’t know what to believe,” Jason said. “It’s been three months, and no one said anything about her until yesterday. There was a letter and it had my name on it. Hers, too. Together.”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Justus rubbed his jaw, then sat in the chair. “Yeah, well, it was kind of…it was a decision after a certain point. But not at first. I—” He set the paperwork down. “The first few days, you were in the ICU, you know? And we couldn’t get in. Visitors were limited, and when Emily didn’t hear from Elizabeth, she just figured Liz was living there. Camping out. And dealing with the family,” Justus muttered. “Which was never easy for her, but she would have done it. We didn’t know until you woke up that Elizabeth had never been allowed in the ward.”

Jason frowned. “Why didn’t she tell you? If she’d told you and the others—”

“We would have gone straight to Lila who would have shamed Edward,” Justus said immediately. “To the extent that Edward, Alan, or Monica ever accepted or tolerated Elizabeth, it was because of Lila. And Lila never would have allowed this. I know she seems sweet and gentle—and she is, but Lila rules with an iron fist. But, like I said, by the time we knew, you were awake and you didn’t remember anything. And things were bad. You seemed to hate any mention of before the accident.”

Jason made a face, sat down in the other chair, stared at his hands. ‘That’s still mostly true,” he said. “But—”

“Ned was worried, and I agreed—we talked about it first. We were both worried about Liz. I know you don’t like talking about before, but if you know about Elizabeth, then maybe you know…that she’s not the only, uh, family you had.”

“I know about…” Jason paused. “Cady. That’s…we called her Cady?”

“Yeah.” Justus smiled now, though it was sad. “I don’t want to get into all of it right now. But losing her pretty much decimated Liz, and she was only just kind of coming around, you know? No, you don’t know. Sorry.” He paused. “We were worried you’d be angry. That telling you that you’d been married, that you had a daughter—it would be like pressure. And you had enough of that. But you were lashing out in the beginning, Jason. At Emily, Lila—anyone who talked to you.”


“And I’m not blaming you for that. I’m not. I can’t pretend to understand what was happening or what you were going through. I wouldn’t have the first clue. But Ned and I felt protective of Liz after everything she’d already been through, and then she told us that Alan had pretty much kept her out of the hospital—she didn’t tell Emily because she didn’t want to cause problems. I don’t know, I think we just…decided that it was better to leave it alone. Emily and Lila agreed—reluctantly. I don’t know if it was the right decision, Jason, and I’m sorry if you feel like it wasn’t.”

“I don’t know,” Jason said slowly. “I don’t know if there would have been a good time. I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter now. I just wanted to hear it from you. I—” He looked back at the table. “Edward and Alan have this power that I didn’t give them. Control. I’ve been kicked out of places to live, lost jobs. I don’t even know how Luke or Sonny are going to keep them from doing the same now—” He grimaced. “And Elizabeth said it was her fault. That they started it to keep her away.”

“That would track,” Justus murmured, picking up the divorce papers. “They were furious when you didn’t make her sign a prenuptial agreement.” At Jason’s mystified look, Justus added, “a contract you sign before marriage. How to distribute property and money after a divorce. You didn’t have much except your trust fund, and you figured that wasn’t your money anyway. You’d use it because it was there, but it didn’t matter to you. But it mattered to Edward. He tried to force it through ELQ, and failed. You didn’t talk to him for three months.” Justus set the papers down again. “Anyway. A conservatorship isn’t easy to get — or it’s not supposed to be.”

“Can you get me out of it?”

“I don’t…I’d have to look at how it was structured. It’s…you’re fine. You shouldn’t be in one—” Justus furrowed his brow. “And how can they pursue a divorce…” He continued to sift through the folder. “Or an eviction?”

“An eviction?” Jason sat up. “What?”

“Elizabeth’s being evicted from the apartment, according to this—” Justus skimmed. “The conservatorship is petitioning to break the lease which they can do since it’s your name. And she’s technically your tenant. I’d have to look into that, but that doesn’t exactly feel right since she’s…huh…” Justus flipped to another document. “They closed your joint bank account?”

“That’s what Elizabeth said.” Jason leaned forward. “Why?”

“No, it’s just…that’s strange. You don’t have an income other than a quarterly allowance from the trust fund. You’ve been going to school,” Justus added. “But Elizabeth’s always been working. She makes good money at Luke’s—” He rifled through a few more documents, found the stack of bank statements. “Oh, good she brought you these. Yeah, look at December.” He tapped the paper. “I remember you telling me that you were putting the trust  funds away — it was tuition and big expenses, but you were mostly putting it into savings. Elizabeth was paying for the monthly stuff. The rent, the utilities — Luke and Sonny pay her a manager’s salary. A generous one, but she also cleans up in tips.”

Justus handed the paper to Jason. “Luke paid her through her maternity leave, and kept on paying her even after…in December, she didn’t work. But he paid her salary anyway. All the money coming into this account — it matches her income. Not the trust fund. But they closed it anyway and took the money.”

Jason’s stomach felt strange. There was a swirling ache that was uncomfortable and almost twisting. “They really…but she told me that I was taking care of the bills. That she wasn’t working.”

“No, these are her paychecks—” Justus showed him the entry. “See? Do you think she didn’t know Luke and Sonny were still paying her full wages? I mean, you handled the finances because you like numbers and she doesn’t. Maybe she really didn’t know. She just knew there was money in the account.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Jason looked at the statements. “She talked about Luke and Sonny offering to loan her money for lawyers, but she never said if she took it.” He had questions now, but the only person who could answer any of it was Elizabeth. “Will you help me sort it out?”

“Yeah. Yeah, this is diabolical. Can I take this stuff? I’ll go through it, get a better sense. I can get the case numbers, all of that.”

“Yeah. That’s fine. Whatever you want. I just…I want to be able to control my own life. And Elizabeth…I want them to leave her alone. I don’t—” She was the wife, Jason thought. Not his wife, but someone’s. And Alan and Edward were using Jason to make her miserable when she’d been trying to leave Jason alone. She hadn’t pressured him until he’d forced her to. They were trying to take her home the way they’d taken his place to live, too. And maybe they’d stolen her money. “Make them leave both of us alone.”

“I’ll do what I can, Jason. Let me look into this. Give me a day or two, and I’ll tell you what’s going on.”

November 25, 2023

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 59 minutes.

He’d known, of course, that there had to be a good reason why he’d been fired from three jobs at the docks and turned out of at least two places to stay, despite having the money to pay. He’d had help from the cousin, Ned, in getting some money from the trust fund everyone always talked about to he could pay for Kelly’s, and the paychecks could pay for Jake’s. But both woman had turned him out, and at least two of the warehouses had just stopped putting him on the schedule after the first week.

He’d just thought it was the power of the Quartermaines — he’d heard enough about the family since being awake, had seen the way the doctors at the hospital deferred to them, but it had never occurred to Jason that there was more than that.

But now, holding a piece of paperwork that didn’t make any sense, Jason saw the last two and half months in a completely different light. If he’d been legally married prior to the accident, how could someone else petition for divorce? Or—

“I don’t understand,” Jason said after a long moment. He set the paperwork down, met Elizabeth’s nervous eyes. “How does that happen? What is a conservatorship?”

“I don’t—it’s so complicated, and they didn’t really—” She bent down again to tug another folder. “I went to the law library to see if I could find the statutes they wrote in that paper, but it still didn’t make sense. I printed it because I wanted to read it. As soon as I gave that to my lawyer — the one that did the power of attorney letter, they dropped my case.” Elizabeth slid papers across the small table, but Jason just shook his head. “You don’t…believe me?”

“I—” He didn’t know what to think, so he picked it up, but the print was small and the wording was complicated. Why did they always—”

The legislature hereby finds that the needs of persons with incapacities are as diverse and complex as they are unique to the individual…The determination of incapacity shall be based on clear and convincing evidence and shall consist of a determination that a person is likely to suffer harm..

“Does this mean they went to a court and said I was…” Incapacity. Damaged. Limited. His fingers tightened around the paper. “I’m not.” Or was he? A court should have evidence? Jason had ignored doctors who told him things, but—

“I was confused when I read that because it made it sound so…” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, then rubbed her arms. “Anyway. I was reading it, and it said you were supposed to have a representative at the court. Someone who isn’t one of the conservators, so I tried to get the records, but I was denied. It’s all under seal. I don’t know if the hearing was fair. I do know the Quartermaines have a lot of friends in high places. All I know is that Alan still have power of you as a person, with medical stuff, and Edward is over your estate. Um, the power to contract. You can’t…not legally…do anything without him.”

He set the paper down, dragged his hands through his hair. It made sense, a horrible sense, and he wondered how many people had been lying to him. How many people in that damn house had known about this? Had the grandmother, Lila, who had been so kind to him? The sister—

He had no doubts about Alan or Edward—

“It’s my fault,” Elizabeth said, drawing his attention back to her. “If I hadn’t pushed, you know. With the power of attorney. Maybe they would have been okay with cutting me out. If they’d known you’d wake up without your memories…maybe—” She stared down at the table, tracing a nick in the wood with her thumbnail. “But I did. I got a lawyer. I was just…desperate for answers, and they weren’t telling Emily or Ned anything because they thought I’d find out…and I just…I should have left it alone. But I made Edward mad. And they went to do this—”

She jerked her head at the folder he still hadn’t looked through. “The legal stuff is in all there. I didn’t…know what to do. There’s not a lot of lawyers who will take on the Quartermaines. Even though Luke and Sonny offered to loan me money — I thought about asking Ned, but what if he knows? What if he…” Her voice trembled. “They did it to you to get rid of me, you know? The first thing they did was close the bank accounts. I never touched your trust fund. At least I don’t think so. You used to put money in the account, and you were doing the bills because I was maternity leave, and then after the accident—” She shoved her hair from her face, combing her fingers through the strands. “I don’t know. I couldn’t do anything.”

Jason didn’t know what to say to any of this. It was a life he didn’t know or understand. But the trust fund — “They thought you wanted the money,” he said slowly.

“Yeah, um…I mean, there were a lot of reasons they didn’t like me. It wasn’t so bad when Emily and I were friends. At first, they thought maybe I was bad influence on her, but she kept being an honors student, so they let it go.” Elizabeth twisted a ring on her finger. “But you…you brought me a New Year’s Eve party last year and it was like I was a serial killer.” Her smile was faint. “I wasn’t good enough.”

“Why?” Jason shook his head. “What did they care?”

“Oh—” Elizabeth jerked a shoulder. “A lot of things. I’m a Webber, but I’m a shame to my family, especially if you ask my parents. I paid, like, zero attention in school, barely got to graduation. I was a waitress, and now I’m a bartender…nothing like my sister Sarah who they basically picked out for you—” She winced. “Anyway, it’s all….it just boils down to this. They think I’m a gold digger who got pregnant to trap you and get my hands on your trust fund, and their worst nightmare came true when you married me.” She smiled ruefully. “Alan offered me money to leave town, but I refused, and he’s always been angry he couldn’t get rid of me the way he did Nikki.”

“Nikki?” Jason echoed, bewildered. He’d lost track of the conversation entirely. “Who—”

“When we were still in high school, AJ was going to marry this girl. Nikki Langton. She probably was trying to get to AJ for the money, but Alan paid her to go away, and she went.” Elizabeth picked at her nails, looking away from him. “It was a little better when Cady was born. You know, Edward has his issues, but he really does love his family. He just…wants to control them, you know? He thinks he knows best. But…well, any chance of things getting better…”

Elizabeth dragged in a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get into all of that. Especially when I can’t…I can’t prove any of it, right? And that’s what you wanted. You wanted to make up your own mind. I thought maybe if you wanted someone to read through that or you know what you’re looking for now, you could…for yourself. Decide what you want. I mean, listen, the conservatorship was a horrible thing, I thought, but since the only thing Edward’s done with it is to get rid of me, maybe you don’t mind—”

“I got fired from my job because of it,” Jason said flatly, and she looked at him, her eyes wide. “Kicked out of Jake and Kelly’s. He wanted to force me back into that house. It’s not just about you.”

“Oh. I didn’t…Emily hasn’t told me much. I didn’t want to know,” Elizabeth confessed, her cheeks flushing and her eyes averting again. “And Luke and Sonny really just said people were being pressured, though I guess I knew it was part of this. I just…I know why it started, so I was blaming myself for all of it—” She closed her eyes. “Being selfish. Just like always. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She swiped at her cheeks, brushing away the few tears that had escaped. “Well, you know everything now. Or at least you know what I know. And you have access to anything else.”

He didn’t know what he was supposed to think or feel — it was all muddled and confusing again. There was still so much else he didn’t know — and maybe plenty he didn’t want to know. And he didn’t like how he kept making her cry.

“What else is in the bag?” Jason said finally, noticing that her tote wasn’t entirely empty. “You said I had everything.”

“Oh. I didn’t know what else to bring, so—” Elizabeth pulled out the last few files. “Um…I looked in your desk at the apartment, and I don’t know. There were financial things. The taxes from last year, and you were keeping a folder for this year, though I might need that back—” Her brow furrowed. “That’s next month, isn’t it? I don’t…there are bank statements. You never threw anything out. I thought you…might want to see for yourself about the trust funds. And you have the bank now, maybe you could ask for other accounts—there’s more stuff at the apartment—” She tapped the bottom file. “And this is college stuff. Um, you went to Stanford for undergrad, and you were in PCU for med school. I don’t know if you wanted it, but it was part of the story, and I just…”

There was too much on the table. Too much history he didn’t want, and now he regretted ever hinting he wanted to find out things for himself, because she’d actually listened and now there was too much. There was a life here, proof and evidence of everything that he’d never ever remember.

Jason shoved away from the table, and a few things fell to the floor. “I didn’t ask for all of this.”

“Oh.” Elizabeth’s face drained of color and she looked down at the table. “Oh. Right. I did…it’s…more than you asked for. You just asked about the hospital, and I’m sorry—I just I didn’t want to…” Her hands were shaking as she started to shove things back into the bag. “I’m sorry. I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave anything out because people always do that and then I did too much. I just…you tell me what you want to keep and I’ll take the rest—”

“Just stop—” Jason held up his hands. “Stop. Okay? I don’t know. I don’t want any of this! I don’t know you, and I don’t know what any of this is! I don’t care how much paper you shove in front me, I’m not going to remember you!”

“I didn’t…” Elizabeth pressed her lips together, then rose to her feet. “I wasn’t trying to make you remember,” she said, though her voice seemed steadier now. And now she was looking at him. “You know, there’s no manual or instructions for how to do this, okay? Unless you have one you want to share, I’m just trying to figure this out the same way you are! You aren’t the only person whose entire life ended three months ago, okay? You don’t remember anything, fine. But I do. And I’m doing my best. You tell me when to back off, and I’ll do that. But don’t yell at me for trying to give you what I thought you wanted.”

He fisted his hands at his side. She was right, of course she was, but there was all this pressure inside, this tightness, and he just wanted to hurt someone—he wanted it to go away— “I’m telling you to back off.”

“Then I’m backing off.” She yanked her purse up. “You keep the papers. Throw them out, burn them, I don’t care—”

And then she left, slamming the door so hard that it rattled in the frame. The room was silent now, the air was gone, and all that was left was the information she’d dumped on him.

Jason exhaled slowly, then crouched down to pick up what he’d knocked from the table — the first few things he’d looked at. The marriage certificate…and the baby book. He carried the book over to the bed, and sat down, cracking open the cover again.

On the first page, there was another copy of the birth certificate, pasted inside. He stopped to read it again. Cadence Audrey Quartermaine, born September 19, 1995 to Jason Morgan Quartermaine and Elizabeth Imogene Webber. Beneath the birth certificate, someone had written birthday twins! And then Jason remembered that he was supposed to be have been born on September 19, too.

There was more information about her birth — she’d been born at General Hospital at 9:25 AM. A Tuesday. She’d been six pounds and 13 ounces. A birth announcement that didn’t make any mention of her grandparents on either side, just of her parents.

A photograph under the page that said “My First Home” and Jason stopped to study it, to make the colors and lines and shapes make sense to him. They were standing on a street in front of a building — a brick one, he realized. Elizabeth’s face was pale, clean of any makeup, and she looked tired. He held the baby in his arms. She had almost no hair, and a yellow outfit.

There was a page of with a record of accomplishments — and most of it was blank. There was something so stark about it that sat with him. Makes known likes and dislikes – from birth. Follows movements with eyes – 5 weeks.

But there was nothing written next to recognizes mother and father or laughs aloud. The following pages were blank, too. First Christmas. First Birthday. It was empty.

It was a book meant for a long-lived life, with pages for weddings and school and jobs — but they were snow white. Empty. Nothing had been written on them. And nothing ever would.

He thought about that picture of himself standing in front of a building with a baby who hadn’t lived long enough to recognize her parents or even to laugh. He didn’t know yet exactly when this baby had died, only that it had been sometime in November. And then Jason gotten into the car just after Christmas.

He’d woken up into a world with nothing in it — no memories, no recognition of anyone he was supposed to know. And maybe for the first time, Jason could see there was a silver lining in that. He didn’t remember this baby, and wouldn’t have to live with that memory.

But now there was a heaviness hanging over him. Because he didn’t remember this baby. And there was a paper that said he’d been her father.  Photographs that proved he’d cared about her, about her mother.

And that mother had buried her child and lost her husband weeks later.

Jason closed the book, set it aside, and returned to the table stacked with documents and folders. She’d done too much, he thought, but she was the only person who had actually listened to him. Had heard what maybe he hadn’t understood either. That he needed to know these facts for himself —

How could he complain now because he had too many facts to digest?

Jason went to the plastic phone on the night stand. He wanted to know exactly how much the Quartermaines had known and he needed someone who could explain these legal papers to him—

And there weren’t that many people who could do both.

“Justus? Hey. Uh, you said if I ever needed anything—”

Note: I pulled my own baby book from the shelf in my office and used my own information, lol, for some of the milestones, and the page content.

November 19, 2023

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 67 minutes.

He hadn’t wanted to hear their daughter’s names from her lips, but to read them for himself. It was that fact that swirled around in Elizabeth’s mind as Jason looked at her expectantly, still holding the one photo of her before life she allowed herself to carry around.

Elizabeth curled her palm around the identification bracelet, took a deep breath. How could she tell him all that had happened while he’d been in that terrible coma? How a tragedy begun the clashing of steel in the rain in November had just kept expanding like a black hole until it had swallowed everything in their lives whole—until there was nothing left today that had come before.

How did she tell Jason what his family had done to him, and how it could all be traced back to a night he’d walked into Luke’s and refused to leave, smiling and charming her into at least one date. If she’d just sent him away, oh, how different it would be now—

She swallowed hard, opened her mouth—but then stopped at the sound of footsteps from the back of the club. A moment later, Luke appeared, though he hesitated at the end of the bar, maybe sensing the tension in the air.

“Everything all right?” he asked cautiously.

Elizabeth lowered the hand with the bracelet to her side, then brushed at her tears with the other. “It’s—um, he knows Luke. Who I…was. Who—” Her voice trembled slightly. “He knows about Cady.”

“Cady?” Jason asked. “Is that…that’s what we called her?”

We. Oh, to hear that word from his lips—the tears spilled over again and she had to take a step back because he didn’t mean it, he didn’t. It wasn’t we the way it had been once, them against the world, but we as a historical fact that had ended. They’d had a daughter with a nickname they’d used—and now they didn’t.

“I need a minute. I need—” She darted past Luke, and away. Because this was so much harder than she’d ever imagined, and they’d barely scratched the surface.


Jason took a step forward, almost thinking of running after her, but Luke stepped in front of him, holding up a hand. “Let’s give her a minute to get sorted, all right? It’s been a hell these last six months. You got questions, maybe I can answer some.”

“Okay. Why did you give me this job?” Jason said. “You knew who I was. Who Elizabeth was.  Was that part of it?”

“Not the question I was expecting, but all right.” Luke came behind the bar, went for a bottle of Jack Daniels. “You want something?”

“An answer.”

“Tough crowd.” The brown liquid sloshed inside a short, clear glass and Luke took a sip. “All right. Lizzie was always mine, and if you tell her I called her that, I’ll deny it. But that’s who she’s been since she was a kid.” He held up a hand, using his index finger and thumb to make a gesture of measurement. “Since she was this big. Her dad is connected to my wife, Laura. Laura’s stepdad is Lizzie’s uncle, and that’s what we called her. Elizabeth was too long a name for a kid that was miniature from the moment she was born.”

“This isn’t answering my question—”

“You don’t like how I’m doing it—” Luke tipped his head. “There’s the door. Because you need to understand how this happened—”

“I just want you to tell me why—”

“And I’m doing that. Because she’s family to me, and Spencers take care of family. She came up with my boy, dated him for a while, but it didn’t work out. Her first job was at Kelly’s, the worst waitress the world has ever seen. But she kept going, and found she had a knack with people. Not with the actual delivering and taking of orders, but people? Lizzie could charm almost anyone.” Luke took another sip, then grimaced. “Not your family. But nearly everyone else. She came to me for a job because bartending was more people. As soon as she was legal, we hired her on. That was two years ago. So I was here when you came into the picture.”

He stared at the contents of his glass for a long moment. “I won’t talk about any of that. It’s not for me. But what happened in November hit us all. That little girl—well, as hard as hit me, it decimated Elizabeth. And you, if you want to know that.”

Jason didn’t like hearing that—didn’t like being told how he’d felt when he couldn’t remember it for himself. But he dropped his gaze to the photograph, saw the way his old self was holding the baby, and it stung a little less. Because it was an emotion that made sense. Someone who loved a baby—well it would hurt when they were gone, wouldn’t it?

“And just when I thought maybe Lizzie was starting to get herself together, maybe there’d be a light at the end of the tunnel, you got in that damn car with your brother. I cursed you for that, you know. Whatever faith in a higher power I ever had, well, that obliterated it. But you didn’t die. No, you didn’t have decency to make break clean,” Luke muttered, then took another sip. He wasn’t looking at Jason now, and Jason found himself appreciating this view of the accident. He’d been told how much he loved his brother, how much he’d wanted AJ to stop drinking, how he’d wanted to protect his family —

But Luke’s view seemed right. It was such a stupid decision. Who would be dumb enough to get into a car with someone too drunk to drive?

“I won’t get into what happened then. That’s for her to handle, and it’s her story. But it makes me furious. I’ll be interested in what you think of it once you have the facts.” Luke finished his drink. “But Lizzie wasn’t dealing with it. She was hiding here, maybe hoping she’d never have to look at you. And I knew—Sonny and I both knew it wasn’t the right choice. When Ruby told me that the Quartermaines had forced you out of her place, that you’d gone to Jake’s, I looked into it. And I knew it was time.” Luke finally faced Jason again. “So if you want to know if this was a setup, sure. Sonny and I knew exactly what you’d been to Elizabeth, and we brought you here on purpose. Doesn’t mean we didn’t mean our promise to hold up against the Quartermaines to protect your job and room. But Elizabeth wasn’t part of it. If she’d known what we’d planned, she might have gotten in the car and kept driving.”


In the bathroom, Elizabeth leaned over the porcelain sink, splashing cold water on her face. She reached for a strip of paper towels to dry it, standing up and looking at herself in the mirror.

She didn’t need a doctor or a well-meaning friend to tell her she’d lost weight she couldn’t afford over the last few months. She’d always been slender, but her cheekbones were more prominent than they should have been, and her collarbone was more visible. She wasn’t doing well, and somehow, it was easier to admit that to herself now.

The day she’d craved and dreaded with equal ferocity was upon her now. Jason knew who she’d been to him, he knew that their daughter had existed—and now she had to decide what came next.

 I don’t want anyone to tell me anything else.

His words, tinged with a bit of anguish she realized now, echoed in her memory. He’d looked at that photo, and he’d seen something Elizabeth hadn’t. Or it had triggered something in himself — he’d wanted Cady’s name, but he hadn’t wanted her to say it. He’d wanted to find it for himself.

What must it be like for all the facts you knew about yourself to come from someone else? His name, his birthday, his history—who his family was, what kind of person he’d been—what would that feel like?

He’d been angry and hostile to nearly everyone he’d talked to. Even Emily, who could make anyone smile, had struggled a little. She and Ned had told Elizabeth to wait. That telling Jason more right now — telling him everything would only make it worse, and she could see they’d had a point.

But Elizabeth had also used their worry as an excuse to hide from reality, and now that wasn’t an option anymore. How could she tell Jason everything that had happened since his accident? How could she make him understand the choices she’d made — the actions his family had taken—

And then she knew. She slid her fingers into her pocket, looked at the bracelet with their daughter’s name and Jason’s promise inscribed, and realized that she knew exactly how to handle this terrible story.


“I believe that Elizabeth didn’t know,” Jason said. Now anyway, he knew it to be the truth. Her reaction the day before and today didn’t fit with someone who had plotted to lure him in with her sad story. “I didn’t at first but now I do.”

“Good—” Luke broke off when he saw Elizabeth returning. “Hey, honey. You good?”

“Yeah. Yeah. Um—” She came in, her skin a bit flushed and eyes tired from her tears. “I know you have a lot of questions about why I wasn’t at the hospital, and I want you to know them. It’s just—it’s a long story. And—and I want to get some things together to make it easier. Can you…can we just work tonight, and I promise—” She bit her lip. “I promise I’ll  try get you everything tomorrow. Or at least as much as you want.”

He furrowed his brow. “But—”

“It’s complicated, and I’m afraid I’ll leave parts out or I’ll do it in the wrong order—” She dragged a hand through her hair, then past her shoulder to rest in a clutched fist in front of her chest. “Please. I promise I’m not trying to hide anything. It’s just…not easy.”

“Yeah. Okay. Okay.” Jason didn’t really have a choice but to agree. He realized he still had the photo in his head, and he held it out. “Do you…want this back?”

She dropped her eyes to it, then looked at him. “Unless you want to keep it.”

His fingers tightened instinctively. He did want to keep it. It was the first time he’d been able to see a photograph and understand all of it, but it was also painful. But maybe that was okay. Maybe it was supposed to be. “Maybe for now.” He looked down again at it, then slid it into the back pocket of his jeans. “You…never said. Was Cady…was that what we called her?”

“Yes.” Her smile was faint, just the slightest curl of the corners of her lips. “The name was my idea, and I thought it was so pretty, but when she was born, she was so small—you said it was a lot of name for someone so little and precious.” She slid a more mischievous grin. “The same reason Luke still calls me Lizzie and thinks I don’t know.”

“Not to your face,” Luke said, though he smirked.

“It was my idea,” Jason said, and tested this information. It was something he was being told about himself, and that almost always pricked at him, feeling out of place and wrong. But there was something in the way she’d related the story, the way she’d connected it to herself, and made it feel like a story she was sharing, not another piece of knowledge about himself that he would never remember on his own. “Okay.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth hesitated, then held out her bracelet to Luke. “Um, I can’t…I can’t get it to clasp again. My fingers…” She held out her hand, fingers spread out, and Jason realized they trembled slightly.

“I’ll do it,” Jason volunteered, stepping in front of Luke who backed up. Elizabeth bit her lip, then handed him the bracelet and extended her wrist. It was a small, delicate metal clasp but a simple one, and it took less than a minute, his fingers brushing over her cool skin. He’d given her this bracelet in another life, he thought, and the fact didn’t bother him. After all, it was a one he’d read for himself from the inscription.

“Thank you,” Elizabeth said, looking away from him, her cheeks flushed. “Um, I better get the bar inventory done before we have to open tonight. I can show you how to do it if you want.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jason stepped back, and she moved back towards the other end of the bar, stooping to grab the wallet he’d let drop to the ground when he’d removed the photo. She stowed it back in her bag — along with the telephone bill that had started everything.

“Okay. So here’s where you start.”


They managed to get through the shift, and Elizabeth focused on training Jason this time, not avoiding him. Just like before the accident, Jason was quick to pick up on most things, but she realized he had trouble with some of the liquors with decorative fonts on the label. The letters swirled, he told her, just like some of the pictures. He could get them with some time, but it wouldn’t be fast enough during the service. They focused on colors, and Elizabeth tucked this fact away when she went home to gather the materials for the next day.

Nervous, clutching an overflowing bundle, Elizabeth climbed the steps to the second floor of Luke’s where there were a few rooms. Luke had always thought about renting them out, but Jason was the first tenant. She knocked lightly, and Jason yanked it open so quickly she knew he’d been waiting.

“Hey. Come in.” He wore a white T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans, his feet bare. He gestured towards the kitchenette where she saw a tiny circle table with two chairs made from the same dingy wood. “There’s not much, but, um, do you want water or something?”

“Yeah. Okay.” Elizabeth set the bag down next to the table and sat. She tugged out the first stack, and watched him grab a plastic cup from one of the two cabinets. It was one of those cheap plastic cups you’d see in a discount store, but the water was cold and it kept her mouth from being too dry.

It was almost too fantastical to accept that she and Jason were alone together again, in a room that wasn’t much different than where she’d been living when they’d first started dating — that had been at Kelly’s back then — it was almost like being back at the beginning.

Except for everything she’d brought that reminded her just how much history there was.

“I thought about what you said yesterday, about wanting…about not wanting to be told things. Facts,” Elizabeth added when Jason finally sat across from her. “So, I, um, went home and got all these together. Documents and things. I thought…I don’t know, I could show them to you and maybe you could ask me questions.”

Jason’s gaze was intense. “You…you brought things to look at?”

“Yes. Um. Is that okay? Unless you just want me to tell you, I just—”

“No. No. This is—” He seemed flustered, shifted in his chair. “No. This is good. Where…what do you bring?”

“I didn’t know where you wanted to start, so I thought, well maybe the beginning?” Elizabeth slid the first few documents towards him — their marriage certificate and Cady’s birth certificate. He scanned them, furrowing his brow. “She was born in September, but we were only married in March?”

“Yes. Um, I didn’t…we didn’t plan to get pregnant. Or married. Not then,” Elizabeth added. She fiddled with the ring on her finger. “It was the worst time, honestly. You were going into medical school and we both knew your schedule would be insane. But it also…felt right. I was scared until you told me you were happy. I, um, don’t have anything to prove that. Other than…” She slid a photograph towards him. She’d tried to find one that had them in a similar pose as the photo he already had, hoping it would make it easier. He was smiling in it.

“We signed a lease—” She slid that towards him, and he only glanced at this, which bolstered her. She reached into the bag again, her fingers shaking slightly as she took out a book with a baby holding a teddy bear. Across the top, there were pink letters labeling it as “My Baby Book.”

Jason took it from her, staring at the cover for a long moment. He started to flip through it, reading through her pregnancy, the photos they’d taken every month—there were two sets of handwriting—they’d both written in it.

Then Cady’s birth, and photos of her—doctor’s first appointment—

And then the pages were blank. There was nothing on the pages describing her second month. Jason stopped on these pages, raised his eyes to hers. “You said it was six weeks.”

“Yes. I, um, there are newspaper articles about it, but I didn’t—” She stared at her hands. “You can get those, I guess. I never read any of it. If there was, um, a death…” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “I don’t know. I never saw any of it. You handled it. I can get them—”

“I know what to look for now,” Jason said, his tone gentle, and she looked at him. “It’s okay. Thank you. Can…can I look through this? I want to know more. Read it.” He touched the book. “I won’t lose it or damage it, I promise.”

“Okay. Yeah. That’s…yeah.” Elizabeth reached into the bag again and drew out a new folder, a thicker manila file folder. “And this is where the hospital story begins.” She slid that over to him.

Jason took out the first letter, frowning as he read it. “This is from your lawyer,” he said slowly. “Telling the hospital that you are asserting your legal right as my wife to visit me in the ICU. That you have the power of attorney and should be in charge of medical treatment, or at the very least, consulted. That wasn’t happening?”

“No. I never—I came to the hospital, but you can’t just go to the ICU, you know. They, um, the hospital never let me upstairs. I never got past the security desk. So I went to a friend, and…” She sighed. “And it just got worse from there.”

Jason nodded. He looked at the next document. “This is a notice from the court that—” His face tightened. “Alan Quartermaine is acting power of attorney. How…”

“They went to court. I didn’t—I wasn’t part of it. They cut me out from the beginning.”

Jason exhaled slowly, then picked up the next legal notice. He stared it for a long moment, and she could almost hear the question before he asked it. “How exactly is Edward Quartermaine petitioning for a divorce on my behalf?” he demanded. “What the hell is this?”

“The power of attorney wasn’t enough,” Elizabeth said slowly. “It only gave Alan medical power. They wanted…they wanted me cut off from everything. I found out when I went to get money from the ATM, and I found out they’d cleaned out the bank account. They went to probate court and petitioned for a conservatorship. Alan controls the medical side, and Edward…everything else. That’s why Ruby and Jake and everyone else pushed you away. Because you legally don’t have the right to enter into a contract without Edward. And the first thing Edward did with this power? He filed for divorce and closed our bank accounts.”

November 12, 2023

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 63 minutes. And you guys, listen, I think this might be the best thing I’ve ever written in an hour.

They had told him his name was Jason.

That’s where the anger had begun, of course, though he wouldn’t have recognized it at the time. He’d opened his eyes to nothing. A blank slate. A room he didn’t recognize. People he didn’t know.

“You’re Jason,” a tearful woman with blonde hair had told him, her hands clutched in front of her, raised to her mouth as her blue eyes had shimmered with tears. “You’re Jason, and it’s okay. We’ll make it okay.” She’d clung to a man next to her with salt and pepper hair who had also been emotional, though there were no tears. “We’re your parents, and we love you. You’re Jason. It’s all going to be okay now.”

It was a lie, though he couldn’t have known it then. He knew things of course. He could walk, talk, eat, dress himself — all the functions of everyday life required for survival, but people meant nothing to him and he didn’t understand them.

He knew that the word parents meant he’d been raised by them and these people had served some sort of authoritative function in his life. Just like he understood what grandfather and sister and brother — he understand that the terms referred to biology and legal obligations. He could have accepted that.

He liked facts. Liked the certainty of information that couldn’t be changed. The man — Alan he’d called himself — was his biological father, and the woman — Monica — had adopted him. There’d been some twisted story about an affair that Monica had tried to explain to him, but he had mostly ignored it. That had nothing to do with him. He had a brother who was older from Alan. A sister who was younger — she’d been adopted by both of them as a toddler.

There were grandparents — Alan’s parents. Both biological, he’d noted. And a cousin, Ned, with his wife, Lois. Ned was Alan’s nephew, another biological and legal term. They were nice enough. A different cousin, Justus, who was tolerable enough.

At first, he’d accepted all of these facts because there didn’t seem to be a point in refuting them. And his name was Jason, which they said over and over again. He was Jason Morgan Quartermaine, medical student and favored son — or so the bitter older brother, AJ, proclaimed.

In the hospital, it hadn’t been so bad at first. People had left him alone sometimes, and they seemed to understand he didn’t know them. There were doctors which he’d hated because they kept looking at him like an insect, like something under a microscope they didn’t understand. A miracle, one of them had said. Dr. Jones.

“You suffered such damage to that frontal lobe,” the doctor had told him. “And yet all that seems to be impacted is your long-term personal memories.” Other memories were there — he knew algebra and geometry and the French national anthem — he knew how to fix a leak in a sink, though no one could explain how the pampered rich son knew that.

But he knew that Dr. Jones was wrong — that was something else missing in him. He didn’t know how to talk to people. Or how to make the thoughts in his head come out right. He’d think one thing, and then he’d open his mouth, and words would fall out, and they’d always be the wrong ones.

Right after he’d left the hospital and gone to the big house, he’d gone downstairs for breakfast and had been disgusted when they’d given him a bowl of oatmeal. He’d made a face, and the butler (what a strange way to live your life, serving other people) had explained with a patient smile that he always ate the oatmeal because it made the grandmother happy. And he couldn’t understand why anyone would eat anything so disgusting just to make someone happy — which he’d said in front of everyone including the grandmother. The grandmother — Lila — hadn’t seemed offended, but the grandfather had been furious.

He hadn’t cared for the grandfather almost from the beginning. His name was Edward, and he’d seemed disappointed in the lack of memories, though cheered when they all decided he wasn’t too damaged and could go back to medical school.

“You’ll only have to miss this semester,” Edward had declared over a dinner a week after he’d left the hospital. “You’ll get your life back on track like this never happened.”

And this had made him mad. Because he hated hospitals and didn’t want to go anywhere near them. But when he told them this, they’d laughed. The father, Alan, had just grinned liked he’d told a job. “You’ll hate it during your internship, too,” he’d said. “But you’ll get over it—”

And maybe that hadn’t been such a big deal, but it felt like one. It felt like every time he tried to say anything that didn’t fall in line with their vision for what his life looked like, they just laughed and waved it away. Explained how he was wrong. But that wasn’t fair. How he felt wasn’t a fact you could be certain about and the first time he exploded after one of these conversations, the grandfather had raged back —

But the second and third time, when he’d sent the mother crying back to her room, they’d started to talk in hush tones about maybe he needed more help, maybe there was more tests, more studies —

They talked about sending him away.

So he’d left because another fact he knew was that he was over eighteen and they couldn’t do anything to him if he did that. They kept controlling him — he couldn’t keep a job, couldn’t find a place to live — everyone seemed to answer to this family —

But he was still free in his own way, and he thought things were starting to look up.

But every once in a while, he remembered that every fact that he knew about himself was something he’d been told from someone else.

Including his own name. They’d told him he was Jason, and the only reason he had decided to keep the name was the grandmother who had patiently smiled, and said, well, the first time she’d heard her own name was from her mother. Everyone’s name was a fact decided by someone else.

This had made him feel better, and so he’d decided to keep being Jason but it still made him angry every time someone told him something about the person he’d used to be, another fact that he didn’t know —

He thought of it now, standing in Luke’s blues and jazz club, staring at the woman in front of him with tears in her eyes. Just like the mother, Jason thought. Monica had cried when she’d told him who she was supposed to be, and now—

He hated when people looked at him like this, like he was causing them pain, like it was his fault when he hadn’t done anything wrong—

Except get into a car with a brother who was nothing more than a drunk who’d been shipped off to some rehab clinic where Jason didn’t have to think about him anymore. Which he liked.

Now this woman was telling him another set of facts he didn’t know — facts that she didn’t even know like why he’d gotten in the car — and he didn’t want her to tell him anything. He’d just wanted to know why his name was next to hers on a telephone bill—

He hadn’t asked for all the other burdens that came with it. Just like the rest of the family he didn’t know, she’d thrown all of it at him once — “We’re your parents,” Monica had said that day in the hospital. “You’re Jason, our son. And we love you. You were in an accident, and we thought you would never wake up. But now you’re awake and you’ve come back to us—”

All those words had obligations tied to it, and he didn’t even really know his name yet. He still didn’t quite have a handle on any of it—

And in his head, in his mind where things made sense, Jason had the right words. He could see her pain, maybe he could even understand that she wasn’t trying to make her pain his problem, but it was, wasn’t it? She was telling him about a life he didn’t remember—

A whole person he didn’t know except he’d never know them. And somehow that cut through the rest of it. He didn’t remember the grandparents or the parents. The siblings. He didn’t know them. And this—he didn’t know the wife. But they were all flesh and blood people that he could see in front of him. Monica with her tearful pleas, Alan with his dismissive certainty, Edward with the arrogant commands, Lila with the kindness understanding, and Emily with the sparkling laughter. And now Elizabeth with her shattered eyes.

But there was another person in this conversation that wasn’t here anymore, and he’d never know them. The wife had come with the daughter. The daughter who had died the way Jason had almost. A car accident. A drunk driver.

All of this was in his head, and he wanted to say it, because maybe it would make sense out in the world. How could you feel sad about a person you didn’t know? That you didn’t remember? And the word daughter came with another word — father. And wife — that had a matching term, too.

And that was another word that described him. He knew he was Jason, the son, the brother, the grandson, the disappointment, the damaged freak — but he didn’t know Jason the husband, the father, and no one had told him. That family had fallen over themselves to tell him all the stories about Jason the medical student, Jason the hockey player, Jason the great, the wonderful —

But no one ever told him everything and it was exhausting, and infuriating that at the end of it all there was still more he had to find out because when would it end—

So every word he spoke came out angry and bitter and furious because it was days and weeks and months of never knowing what was coming next —

And then she’d stopped, and she’d summed up all of the information in three simple sentences, and his brain had shut down.

We were married. We had a daughter. And now I’m the only one who remembers.

Elizabeth, this stranger, who looked at him with tears staining her cheeks, folded her arms. “Are you going to say anything?”

“I don’t—” Jason stopped. “Was it all a lie?” He hadn’t meant to say that. It hadn’t even been in his head.

She furrowed her brows, with bewilderment now, something he was familiar with because everyone always looked at him like he was stupid. Insane. Damaged. Broken. One step away from losing it— “What? You think I’m lying about—”

“The job. The room.” His tongue felt thick in his mouth now, and he couldn’t quite form the words around it, but now he had something to say. “Luke. Sonny. You sent them, didn’t you? Did you wait until I had no other choice?”

Her arms fell to her side. “What? What? Are you kidding me? I tell you all of that—”

It was a set-up. All of it. It made so much sense right now. He’d come here yesterday, and she’d pretended to be surprised, and then she’d made him feel sorry for her because he was creating more work for her — just another burden. She’d made him feel like he was a problem for her to solve, and he hated that — and she’d dropped mail in front of him — and now she was tearfully telling him about their past together —

Just like the parents and the grandfather and the cousins — and all the people who weren’t happy enough for him to admit the biological or legal times — no, they all were demanding more from him — they wanted him to pretend that the emotions were there, too, and pretend that he had any goddamn clue what was going on around him—

“You knew I had nowhere else to go —”

“Do you think I’m lying?” she bit out, and now her eyes were different. They’d narrowed into little pinpoints of fury, her cheeks flushed. Good, he liked that better. He could handle angry. He didn’t like tears. They felt like weapons, and he didn’t know how to defend against them.

She shoved past him, knocking him back a step, snagging her purse from beneath the bar. She ripped out her wallet, fingers trembling as she shoved it into his face. “Is this a lie?” she demanded, teeth clenched.

Jason tried to look at it, tried to make sense of the images swimming in front of him. He wasn’t always very good at seeing photographs, but he was better now than after the hospital — He took the wallet from her, carefully extracting the photo, taking it in.

Did she know he had trouble with this kind of things? That images on the screen and photos on the mantel or wall swam in front of him sometimes, and he didn’t always understand what he was looking at?

But maybe she really didn’t. She hadn’t been one of the people at the hospital. Hadn’t clung to him, crying when he didn’t know her —

She’d never been there at all.

The photo had people in it, that much he knew. There were colors — brown — which he thought was her hair. And that was…blond. That was him. Jason exhaled slowly as the image came into focus. If he was patient and he tried, if he pulled together some pieces, sometimes it formed and he could see it.

And he wanted to see it. He wanted to know what proof, what defense she’d thrown in his face —

Then he saw it. It was a small portrait of the woman in front of him, though she had more weight in her face, and she was smiling — he’d never seen that. He recognized his face, too…

They were standing — she was turned slightly into him, her hand on his shoulder, her head against his shoulder—

And he was holding a baby. Just a tiny little human with a green frothy dress, a matching headband with an orange flower around her head. And he saw he was smiling, too.

“I’m not lying,” she said, her voice dulled now. “Give me back my picture—”

“I didn’t…” His throat was tight as he looked up from the obvious truth. Somehow it was different when the facts were in front of him. And there were facts in this photograph that no one else had to tell him. Facts he could see though it had taken a lot, and maybe it was larger, he could see more —

He had facts now that weren’t from someone. She’d told him who this baby was to him in legal and biological terms, but she hadn’t told him that he’d loved the baby. That they’d all been happy.

He could see it. He didn’t remember it, but seeing it made it real.

“I didn’t think you were lying about this,” Jason said finally. “I don’t—I don’t know her name.”


“Her name. I should know it. I can’t see it in the picture, and I don’t want you to tell me. I don’t want anyone to tell me anything else.” He swallowed hard. Was he making sense? How could he? It felt like babbling, and he didn’t like that. “Do you—is there something I could look at? With her name.”

Her eyes wide, Elizabeth’s eyes dropped to her wrist. She licked her lips, and, with her other hand, undid the clasp of the bracelet she’d told him he’d given her the day this baby was born. She held it out, the little identification plate flat against her palm.

“Cadence Audrey Quartermaine,” Jason said, reading the words, and taking them in. He looked back at the photo, then at the name.

Elizabeth flipped the bracelet so that he could see the other side — where it was inscribed. He couldn’t read this aloud, didn’t want to.

To Elizabeth, for making me a father and a husband. I will always love you. Jason.

He’d had to be told his name, and all the important facts about himself. He was Jason Morgan Quartermaine, the brain-damaged son of Alan and Monica. But no one had ever told him he was a husband and father. Not even Elizabeth. She’d only told him the word that belonged to her.

But these facts belonged to him, and he had words now for himself that no one had told him. There was evidence that they were his, and he didn’t know why it mattered. Why there was a difference when he still didn’t remember anything and never would.

He could see the truth in these words and this photo. And now he wanted everything.

“Her name was Cadence,” Jason said, listening the way the word sounded, and felt on his tongue. “You…there are more? Photos? You have them?”

“I—yes. Jason—”

He hadn’t known you could see facts in photographs and that you could feel them — they’d always been so hard for him to understand that he’d never tried very hard.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Elizabeth was saying when he focused on her again. “I’m sorry. It’s just so hard to talk about.” Her eyes shimmered again. “You don’t look mad anymore.”

He couldn’t find the anger he’d felt only minutes ago. “I’m not. But—” Jason looked at her again. “Where were you? You were never at the hospital. You never—why didn’t anyone tell me about her?”

“That—” Elizabeth took a deep breath as if she had to pull it from her soul. “That’s a long story.”

November 11, 2023

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 69 minutes. Needed the ending to be perfect so I took extra time.

The large, sprawling estates lining Harborview Road might as well as have been located in another world from the dingy and disreputable Port Charles waterfront, but it was a matter of miles and maybe ten minutes separating Luke’s from the Quartermaine compound, which curved around their own man-made lake. There were tennis courts, a boat house, the family’s own private mauseoleum, an outdoor pool (as well as a heated indoor), the gate house down by the entrance, and the L-shaped main house where you really could get lost if you’d never been there before.

The Quartermaines had been the leaders of Port Charles almost before there had been a town to rule over, and its current patriarch, Edward, had no intention of losing a single battle in the war to maintain his family’s position. He was an imposing man, though he lacked height or stature — it was in the set of shoulders, the look in his eye, the expression in his face —

No one wanted to face the wrath of Edward Louis Quartermaine, and very few ever went directly to wars against him. Including his own son, Alan, who had chosen his few battles carefully, plotting meticulously to find a way in which he could win while not letting Edward know that he’d lost.

It was that long history of combat that Alan was thinking about as he approached his father’s study very carefully, writing the conversation in his head and attempting to account for all possible tangents his father might cease upon.

“Father?” Alan knocked lightly on the door. “Do you have a moment?”

“Barely,” Edward muttered, but set down the gold-plated pen and raised his white head until his piercing blue eyes pinned Alan directly. “What is it?”

“A friend went to Luke’s last night — the jazz club?” Alan added when his father furrowed his brow. “And he thought I might be interested in knowing they’ve hired a new bartender. Jason.”

“Jason—” Edward scowled. “Those damned reprobrates—” He rose from his desk. “I knew we should have moved faster against that woman,” he muttered as he paced towards the large bay window overlooking the gardens. “She’s sniffing around him, isn’t she?”

Alan hesitated. Edward was almost unhinged on this topic — he’d never quite come to terms with Jason’s rebellious relationship and marriage, and that hadn’t improved in the last few months. “I think it’s safe to say that Luke Spencer and Sonny Corinthos didn’t reach out to Jason out of the goodness of the hearts, so yes, I think Elizabeth has learned Jason views us as the enemy and is planning to use that.”

Edward stroked his chin. “I’d almost admire it,” he admitted, “if I wasn’t so furious. She certainly has more patience with which we’ve credited her. It’s the first sign she’s displayed she might actually share some genetic material with her grandfather. Steve would be appalled at how she’s wasted her life. And she thinks she’s going to get her claws back into my grandson, does she?”

“She certainly has a side of the story that makes us into the bad guys,” Alan admitted. “And, honestly, Father, we handed it to her on a silver platter. We ought to have let her into the hospital. Jason has rejected nearly everyone connected to his previous life—”

“Except for Lila and Emily,” Edward muttered, likely still smarting that his beloved wife had refused to help their side at all. And Emily was a traitor in her own way, having been best friends with the Webber girl since childhood. “You may have a point,” he said gruffly. “We’ve allowed her the chance to think, to write her own version of events. The poor, grief-stricken wife kept from her husband, deprived of his presence—”

“And trust fund,” Alan said. One of their early victories had been cutting off the little gold digger from Jason’s financial resources.

“Well, what do we do now?” Edward demanded. “It was one thing to blacklist him from every hotel or motel in the city. To keep him from gainful employment in most places. But Spencer and Corinthos don’t take orders from anyone.”

“I think we should let this play out until our next court date,” Alan said, and Edward scowled. “If we take any immediate action, Father, we risk the rest of the family finding out exactly how we kept Elizabeth out of the hospital. As it is—” He winced. “Monica is starting to waver. She’s grown desperate to hold on to any piece of Jason, and like it or not, Elizabeth is a connection to that life.” His voice dipped. “A connection to everything that was lost—”

“I don’t want to talk about any of that,” Edward cut in sharply. “It’s history. It’s over. And that girl is the reason it’s over. I don’t care a whit for any of her grief or tears. She caused it for all of us. And now she thinks she’ll get a second crack of dragging my grandson down with her—no. I don’t think we can wait—”

“Elizabeth will be served with the eviction notice, Father. And we’ll make another settlement offer. At this point, there’s also the chance that Jason will be furious with her for not telling him about everything. Particularly if she’s lured him into the club under false pretenses. I’m suggesting, Father, that we see how things go for the moment.” He waited, held his breath.

“Fine. We’ll try it your way this once. But everything else goes forward, do you understand? Before Jason can get a chance to stop it. How much longer before it’s finalized?”

“The next court date is to dismiss Elizabeth’s objection. She can’t afford to pay her attorneys much longer. After that, it’s maybe thirty days.”

“All right.” Edward returned to his seat. “I’ll make a few calls to be sure they intend to dismiss her ridiculous petition. As if she should have any say in how I look after my grandson, who is clearly too injured to take care of himself. But you will keep your eye on the situation. If there’s even a hint of her luring him in again, we’ll have no choice but to act.”

“Yes, Father. I’ll see it done.”


Elizabeth had always known this day would come, though she could also admit a small part of her hoped that she’d battle it out in court, win, and then somehow walk off into the sunset with her dignity intact—

And somehow, she’d be able to do all of that without ever looking her husband in the eye again.

“There you go again, Lizzie,” she murmured, stepping behind the bar and flipping through the packet of mail she’d grabbed on her way to work. “Dreaming. When will you learn?”

“Did you say something?”

Startled, Elizabeth jumped, the envelopes and magazines sliding from her hands to the rubber mat laid out behind the bar to protect the hardwood from spills. Behind her, in the archway that led towards the stairs to the second story, stood Jason. Her husband.

Except he wasn’t anymore, not in anyway except the legal — which he had no idea existed. She swallowed hard, then crouched down to hurriedly gather the mail back into her tote bag, her heart pounding. Oh, God, she’d grabbed her mail as part of her routine, but it was not just her mail but his, too. And her name was all over it.

Her full, legal name.

Jason came forward, started to bend down to help, but Elizabeth had it all gathered before he could touch any of it. She clutched the tote bag in her arms, sure that she must look like an insane person, but what if he saw the Sports Illustrated magazine with Jason Quartermaine’s name emblazoned on the address label? Or her Cosmopolitan addressed to Elizabeth Quartermaine—

No. No. That couldn’t be the way they had this conversation.

She didn’t want to have the conversation at all.

“I’ve got it, thanks. Sorry, you just—” Elizabeth licked her lips, turned away and shoved the bag and her purse into the basket under the bar where she always kept her things during a shift. “You surprised me.”

“Uh, okay.” Jason’s tone was bewildered, which of course it was. She’d acted like a lunatic since the moment he’d met her—they’d worked together last night and every time he’d so much as looked at her, she’d fumbled something—

Thank God Luke had stayed on last night to help, pretending he was training Jason, but he’d really just been a buffer between Elizabeth and reality.

Because reality was standing in front of her — something she’d been ignoring for months. Her fingers trembled as she flipped through the club’s inventory list. He didn’t even look like Jason anymore, not really. The long hair had been shaved in the hospital due to his injuries, and Jason had kept it short—nearly a buzzcut. He’d also lost weight since the accident, causing him to look almost lanky, like high school again.

She squeezed her eyes shut. Okay. Okay. You either tell him the truth right now and get it over with or you get your shit together.

“I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, um, so I’m little…off.” Elizabeth took a deep breath, forced a smile as Jason moved around to the front of the bar, his eyes scanning the rest of the club. “And sorry I didn’t really do a better job last night training you. I, um—”

“Sonny said you were dealing with something personal.” Jason turned back to her. “It’s fine. I don’t like surprises either.”

“No, I guess not.” Elizabeth winced when he frowned. “I mean, I just, um, I know you lost your memory,” she said almost weakly. She picked up the clipboard, pretended to study the back of the bar, counting liquor bottles, taking mental notes of what was low, and what they’d need to keep on hand for tonight.

“Lost my memory. Sure. That’s one way to put it.” Jason’s voice came closer, and she knew he’d walked around the other side of the bar again. “Luke and Sonny said I used to come here before the accident. I guess you knew me.”

It was just unfortunate that as he said those words, the ring on her finger — the little diamond he’d bought a year ago when he’d asked her to marry him — it caught the light. “Yes,” Elizabeth said softly. “I knew you.” She looked at him. “Emily and I are the same age. She’s been my best friend since…well, since the sandbox.” She set the clipboard down, curled her hand into a fist to keep from looking at it again. “But, um, she said you weren’t…that you didn’t really want to know anything about before.”

That it made him furious. That he’d been angry, hostile, even viciously rude to anyone who brought it up. “He was even rude to Grandmother,” Emily had told her with wide brown eyes. And since no one on the planet was rude to Lila Quartermaine, Elizabeth had decided maybe it was for the best she was being blocked from Jason right now.

“Not from those people,” Jason bit out. “They keep telling me they’re my family, but all they want is to tell me what to do. So I left.” He cleared his throat. “So, no, I don’t really care about a life I don’t remember.”

Elizabeth nodded, turned away. “Yeah. I can understand that. The, um, Quartermaines…they’re a lot to take. Even under the best circumstances. Emily’s adopted, so that probably helps. And Lila’s not biologically related, either, so that explains a lot.” She picked up her pencil, returned to the inventory.

“They’re all right,” Jason said, almost begrudgingly. “But the rest of them — they can’t handle being told no. And all they did was tell me what to do, how to act, what to say—” He broke off. “You don’t care about any of that. Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Her heart ached for him, fighting all the same battles he’d already won in another lifetime. The Quartermaines had controlled every piece of his life, and had been furious every time Jason stepped out of line. He’d come home from Stanford — the college Alan and Edward had picked out, and then refused to return there for medical school. He’d chosen to stay local — the first time he’d really pushed back, and they’d never forgiven him for it.

And he’d done that for her. Elizabeth was the reason Jason had fought those battles before the accident — and now —

God, it was her fault now, wasn’t it? It would always be her fault. All of it. And suddenly, she understood why Luke had pushed all of this. Why he’d reminded her of the simple fact. Jason hadn’t done anything to deserve the last three months. The last six months. The last two years.

No, Jason had done nothing but come home from college and fall in love with her, and every moment after that was on Elizabeth for blindly thinking love would conquer everything. She exhaled slowly, looked down at the ring again, then at the slim gold bracelet she wore on the same hand. He’d given her both on the happiest days of her life. She’d do this, she’d tell the truth now so that Jason could be free.

And so that he was armed for the battles to come — especially the ones he didn’t even know about.

Elizabeth opened her mouth to tell him the truth, turning as she did so — only to see him crouching down to extract a white envelope that she’d missed earlier. It had slid partially under the bar—

“You dropped this earlier—” Jason said, extending his hand. She reached for it, intending to snatch the piece of mail, but it seemed to happen in slow-motion—

Like a goddamn horror movie.

His eyes dropped and she actually saw it in his eyes — the bewilderment and curiosity swirling as he looked back up, pulling his hand back so that he could fully read the name on the address label.

“What is this?” Jason looked back up, and now she realized there was something worse than having him look at her without knowing her.

It was the fury and betrayal. It was the way he looked just like his grandfather —

“What is this?” he repeated, stepping towards her and shoving the envelope back at her. “What does this mean?”

Elizabeth took it, holding it with both hands. It was a bill for their telephone, of course, she thought almost in a daze. The one bill in both their names. The apartment lease? That was his. Utilities included. Except for the phone.

The one piece of mail addressed to Jason and Elizabeth Quartermaine. Of course she’d missed this envelope.

She’d been so giddy the first time it had arrived in the mail—their first piece of mail as a married couple, she’d said with a beaming smile. Jason had laughed, tugged it from her hand, and kissed her.

“Damn it—” Jason began, his expression twisted in anger she’d never seen directed at her.

“You asked if I knew you,” Elizabeth said finally, as a strange calm settled on her. For three months, she’d craved this moment. She’d dreaded it. She’d run from it. But now it was here. “You never…you never let me finish telling you.”

“Then tell me now.” The words were bit out with the bitterness of a man who’d had nothing but lies and half-truths thrown at him, and she couldn’t even be angry.

“A year ago, last April 15,” Elizabeth said, her eyes locked on his. “That became my legal name. Because we’re married. I’m…I’m your wife.” She licked her lips. “Do you—do you want the rest of it or—”

“How can there be more?” Jason retorted. “What else is everyone lying about?”

“Is it a lie if no one asks?” she asked, almost idly. She held up her wrist, her fingers tracing the little square identification plate on her bracelet, with the elegant letters enscribed into it. “No one asked me. So I didn’t say anything.”

“Playing games, like the Quartermaines do?”

“No. Just trying to survive. This was a gift from you,” she said. A tear slid down her cheek—she didn’t mean it—didn’t want him to think she was going to use the grief they no longer shared. Because she was the only one who carried it now. “On the day our daughter was born.”

“Our—” Jason’s face was bone white. “What the hell—”

“Six weeks later, I threw it away, and it was lost.” Her lips trembled. “I found it after the accident. I guess maybe the universe thought I deserved a break. We don’t have a daughter anymore.”

He closed his mouth, opened it again, but nothing escaped. What could you say?

“She was only six weeks old when the drunk driver hit us. I—I don’t know what happened after that. I never asked you. I just knew she never made it to the hospital. And that I almost didn’t either.” Elizabeth’s lips curved into a sad smile. “Or didn’t you ask why you got into a car with your brother? With an intoxicated alcoholic? You didn’t wonder?”

“I thought I was an idiot,” Jason said faintly.

“Well, yeah, that, too. But you knew what a drunk driver could do behind the wheel, and I think you were trying to stop him from destroying another family. Joke’s on us, I guess. Because I didn’t know there was much left to destroy.” Another tear escaped. “So now you know. We were married. We had a daughter. And now I’m the only one who remembers.”


November 4, 2023

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 56 minutes.

March 1996

Port Charles, New York

The exterior of Luke’s would never prepare anyone for what was inside. It was a largely nondescript building with an average parking lot located on the border between respectable Port Charles and the grimy, crime-ridden waterfront dominated by smuggling, gambling, and drugs. Outside of its entrance sat a short length of a white picket fence with signs pointing in the direction of much more exotic locations like Paris, London, and New York City.

Inside, the jazz and blues club was a garish nightmare of gaudy fixtures and deep reds mixed with the dark, heavy wood furniture. The combinations shouldn’t have worked, but somehow they did —

And over the last two years, Luke’s had become home to a motley crew of outcasts and misfits who didn’t fit in anywhere else. From the owner, Luke Spencer, who claimed no ties to organized crime but had also sold some managing shares to Sonny Corinthos, rumored to control much of the crime in the are —

To their bar manager, currently ten minutes late for her shift and dashing through the front door, her bag hanging off her shoulder, her face flushed. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Luke bent up from behind the bar, setting a box of liquor on its top. “Meeting went too long?”

The pretty brunette with her chestnut hair tossed up in an explosion of waves, made a face and pursed her lips, painted a dark maroon. “Ridiculously,” she muttered. She hung up her coat and joined him at the bar. “They’re going to bankrupt me.”

“Cheer up, Liz.” Luke retrieved a bottle of Jack Daniels and poured a shot. He slid the glass towards her, then poured another for himself. “How much longer can they drag this out?”

She sighed, tipped the shot towards him, clinking in a mock toast. “At least another sixty days. They’re going to serve an eviction notice sometime this month. After that, I have to go to court—” Elizabeth tipped back the shot, the liquid burning her throat but coating her stomach. “Again.”

“Doesn’t seem legal any of it. You sure you don’t want Sonny to make any calls?” Luke asked. “He knows a judge or two.”

“Any judge Sonny knows is in criminal court. Not probate or family.” She grabbed their empty shot glasses and tossed them into the tub meant for the kitchen. “It’s—it’s fine.”

“Having second thoughts about taking the money and running?” Luke said. He folded his arms, leaned against the bar. “No one would blame you.”

“I’d blame me, Luke. I made promises.” She dipped her head, took a deep breath. “It’s the right thing, you know that.”

“I know. But you’d be able to start over—”

“With dirty money. I’m not doing it.” Elizabeth pushed past him, picked up the clipboard. “And I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s talk inventory.”

“We could do that or we could talk staffing. I hired you a new bartender,” Luke said, and she   scowled. “Don’t make that face, kid. You need a warm body behind this bar on the busy nights. You need to train him on pouring the beer, which would free you up for those more frou-frou drinks that take longer to make.”

“I don’t really have the time or energy to train anyone,” Elizabeth grumbled.

“Now where would you be if I’d told you that when you walked in here looking all sad and depressed?” Luke shrugged. “Besides, how hard is it to pour a beer? As long as he’s not building a Guinness, what’s the problem?”

“Nothing. I’m just in a bitchy mood. Which is better than six months ago when I couldn’t get out of bed,” she admitted. “Or three months ago when I didn’t want to leave the apartment. So, fine. When does our new hire get here?”

“Ah, shortly. Sonny’s bringing him by.”

Sonny was, in fact, just upstairs showing the new hire where he’d stay while working at Luke’s. “It’s not much,” he said, switching on the light, illuminating the dingy room with its single bed and nightstand tucked into one corner. There was a door to a bathroom with a tiny shower stall. In the other corner of the room, there was a small kitchenette with the bare necessities. A cabinet, stove, sink, and refrigerator.

“It’s better than the room at Jake’s.” The newest member of Luke’s bar staff walked in front of Sonny, his bright blue eyes scanning the room. His dark blonde hair was worn short, little more than a buzzcut. He wore dark pants and a white t-shirt with a leather jacket. The kid had potential, Sonny thought, if he survived his first shift.

Then again, Sonny wasn’t sure he or his partner would survive that shift once Elizabeth found out who they’d hired.

Sonny smirked. “Most things are.”

“And you’re sure that this isn’t going to cause problems for you? Uh, no one is going to put pressure or anything on you? I told you why I had to leave Jake’s—”

“Jason,” Sonny said, with some patience, “you don’t know much about me yet, and that’s fine. But believe me, the Quartermaines are going to think twice before telling me what to do in my club. And Luke doesn’t listen to anyone. We don’t depend on the Quartermaine’s goodwill here.”

Jason nodded, but his jaw was still clenched. “They’ve made it impossible,” he muttered. “Since I moved out last month. They got me fired from both warehouse jobs. And from Jake’s. I tried Kelly’s, but the manager said no. Isn’t she related to Luke?”

“Ruby doesn’t want trouble. That’s different from pressure. Me and Luke? The Quartermaines know better. You wouldn’t be the first person we’ve hired they want to control. This job is yours as long as you can do it.”

“I’ve never worked a bar before,” Jason said, following Sonny out of the room, down the hallway towards the stairs. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“Nah, pouring beers isn’t rocket science. Our bar manager will handle it—” Sonny stopped at the bottom the stairs, mentally prepared himself for what would happen next. “Uh, sounds like she’s here now, so let’s go make the introductions.”

“Sounds good.”

Sonny led him out into the bar, plastering a grin on his face when he found Luke and Elizabeth behind the bar. “Hey. Great timing. I’ve got your new bartender here.”

Elizabeth looked up from her clipboard, then her eyes widened when she saw who was standing behind Sonny. She whipped her furious eyes to Luke first. “What the hell is this?”

“Uh, he needed a job and we needed the help?” Luke said, trying a sheepish grin but Elizabeth wasn’t in the mood for any of that. She slapped the clipboard down on the bar, the clatter loud.

“Try again,” she said, her tone low and dangerous.

“Is there a problem?” Jason asked, stepping up to Sonny’s side, tense. “I can learn to do anything. I don’t care you’ve heard about my accident—”

“Don’t—” Elizabeth stabbed a finger in Jason’s direction, then her lips trembled, and she closed her eyes. She pressed a fist against her belly, and the flush of anger paled.

Sonny and Luke traded uncertain glances. This had seemed like such a good idea a few days ago, and now maybe they’d pushed too hard. Or should have told Elizabeth just who they’d hired.

“I can’t believe you’d do this,” she said to Luke, forcing the words out. “You were supposed—damn it.” She flew out of the bar and through the double doors leading towards the kitchen.

“Rock, paper, scissors who goes after her,” Luke suggested but Sonny just rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I know. It was worth a try.”  He disappeared, the double doors swinging behind her.

“What was that?” Jason demanded. “If she doesn’t want me here—”

“It’s not that—” Sonny pressed his lips together. It wasn’t his place to reveal all the secrets kept from this kid in the last few months, though it would make him feel better. He faced Jason. “Elizabeth’s going through a lot right now. Personally. We probably shouldn’t have sprung a new employee on her like this. Especially one she would need to train.”


“Let’s give Luke a chance to cool her down, and I’ll show you around the bar.” Sonny flipped back the bar so that they could get behind. “Maybe I can make her job easier.”

It was too much. Too much entirely, and Elizabeth couldn’t quite catch her breath. She ran through the back of the club, towards the back alley, then stopped, pressing her hands against her face.

Oh, God. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. Why didn’t life just stop—

She heard the squeak of the door behind her, but didn’t turn. Couldn’t.

“Liz?” Luke asked. “Look, I’m sorry for throwing this at you like that, but Sonny came to me the other night. He got thrown out of Jake’s. The Qs are pressuring everyone, not just you. You know? He’s lost jobs. Can’t find a place to live.”

“Stop. Just stop.” Elizabeth swallowed a sob, turned to look at him. “Jake threw him out? Why?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t Emily tell you any of this?”

“She doesn’t know much. She went back to California a few weeks after he was out of the hospital, and you know no one is going to tell her what’s really going on.” Elizabeth exhaled, her breath shaky. “It’s the contracts, isn’t it? He can’t enter into any. But they won’t tell him why.”


She bit her lip. “I’m just tired. It never stops. You know? I thought—do you know, I actually thought today that it can’t get worse, right? I’ve already hit rock bottom. How could there be anything beneath that? But there is. There always is.” Elizabeth rubbed her stomach, a bit absently. “They’re going to destroy me. They’ll evict me from the apartment, and maybe they can’t take my job, but they’ll just go after you and Sonny. Especially now.”

“They can’t do anything to me, darling.”

“I can’t—I can’t do this, Luke. Give him a place to stay, fine. But can’t Sonny find somewhere else for him to work? Does it have to be here? Does it have to be with me?”

“We thought about that. This was my idea, so don’t blame Sonny.” Luke shoved his hands in his pockets. “It’s been almost three months, honey. How long were you planning to avoid reality?”

“I didn’t—I didn’t start this,” Elizabeth said. “You know that—”

“No, I know. The Qs forced you into this situation. And until he left their house, they controlled access. The thing is, Liz, he’s been out of there almost a month. What’s stopped you from dealing with this?”

“He doesn’t know me.” The words were barely audible, but he’d heard them. His expression was pensive. “He looked at me, Luke, and he didn’t know me. After everything—I didn’t know there was anything left in me to break, but there was.” She brushed angrily at her eyes, at the tears that slid even though she didn’t want to cry. She was so tired of crying. “He looked me like I was nothing, and it just—I can’t do it.”

“You’re nothing to him now, Liz. But that doesn’t have to be the whole story. Give him—give yourself a chance. You never know—”

“I don’t have it in me to do this all over again, Luke. I can’t. Please don’t ask me.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “Please. Give him a job anywhere else. Or me. I’ll go work in one of Sonny’s club.”

“Not on your damn life. He still has strip joints—look, fine. I’ll tell the kid that we’ll move him somewhere else on one condition.”


“You go inside and tell him why.”

She closed his eyes. “I can’t.”

“You can. And you should. He didn’t do anything wrong here, honey. Except get into that damn car to stop his idiot brother. And we both know why he did that. Nothing about what he’s going through is easy, either. He deserves the truth.”

“Does it have to be now? Today?” Elizabeth asked reluctantly. “Can’t you just…can we just wait a few more days?”

“You can wait as long as you want. But he’s gonna work here until you do.”

“Damn it—” She scowled. “Luke, this isn’t fair.”

“No, it’s not. But you need to remember why you’re battling the Quartermaines in the first place. So yeah, me and Sonny thought you needed to handle this. Up until now, the only version of Jason Quartermaine he’s heard is from that family. Don’t you think you should get a turn? Or are you gonna hide from your husband for the rest of your life?”

October 29, 2023

This entry is part 56 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 28 minutes.

St. Timothy’s Church: Anteroom

There had been some thought that they’d delay the ceremony. A few more weeks, her grandmother had gently suggested. Until Elizabeth’s injuries had fully healed. Until the press had left them alone. Maybe even until the trial was over. After all, what was the hurry?

But Elizabeth hadn’t wanted to wait. Not the six months it would take for her nails to grow back or the year before a trial began because, of course, the madman who had stolen so much from them wouldn’t go quietly into the night —

So a few days before Christmas, barely four weeks after Elizabeth had tumbled over the edge of a cliff with a serial killer, she stood at the back of the church, the double doors closed. In her hands, a clutch of candy-colored tulips. She wore a pair of lace gloves to cover her healing nails.

She hadn’t wanted anyone to stand up with her, not even to escort her down the aisle, and while she’d waved slightly on that after what she and Robin had gone through together, Elizabeth had held firm.

So she stood in the anteroom alone for just another moment, took a deep breath, then reached for the handle.


She turned, her brows furrowed when Lucky stepped out of the shadows of the hallway. “What are you—” She tipped her head. “How did you get in?”

“I’m still Luke’s son,” he offered and she smiled faintly. “I won’t keep you. I just—Lu let it slip that it was today, and I wanted to—” He paused. “I wanted to wish you happiness. Before we were in love, we loved each other, you know?” His smile was crooked, just a corner turning up the way it had when they’d been teenagers. “You were my anchor when I didn’t think there was anything else. I want you—and the boys to be happy.” He cleared his throat. “The last time I told you that, everything was crazy and we were all so scared. I didn’t want you to think it was the pressure of the moment. I mean it.”

Elizabeth smiled, tipped her head. “I want you to be happy, too. I’ll always love you, Lucky.”

“You’d better get down that aisle before Jason starts to worry.” Lucky came forward, pulled the handle. When he opened it, he stayed behind so that no one would see him. Elizabeth turned away from her first love, then looked down the length of the aisle to her last.

Jason stood there, slightly turned towards Father Coates, though he turned when he heard the door, his smile — that sweet smile he rarely showed the world — blooming on his face.

For just a moment, Elizabeth thought maybe she could see Emily smiling behind her brother, her eyes lit with joy and mischief, but then she blinked and there was nothing behind Jason but the altar.

“Goodbye,” she murmured, not just to Lucky who had melted away again into the shadows, but to the sister of her heart who was gone but would never be forgotten. She was in the wind now, and she’d always be there. The pain of losing her would never fade completely, though it would dull with time. The love would always be there, as bright and vivid as the woman they’d lost.

She hadn’t wanted to wait one more day to marry Jason, to continue the life they’d already begun to build together. Emily would understand. The moment for grieving, for the loss, and the pain — it was over now.

It was time for everything that came next.

Elizabeth lifted her tulips to breathe in their sweet scent for a moment, then she walked into the future.


October 28, 2023

This entry is part 55 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 67 minutes.

General Hospital: Emergency Room

Robin’s fingers were laced through Patrick’s clinging tightly, her eyes locked on the ultrasound monitor as Kelly adjusted the gel against her abdomen. “I’m okay. He barely touched me—” She looked up at Patrick, hating how thin her voice sounded, the way it shook — she believed every single word —

It seemed like such a terrible dream now — a nightmare that had blurred into existence then winked out almost as quickly as it had happened. She’d climbed into the trunk under her own power. She’d crawled through the car on her own. She’d found the gun on her own.

But there had been that moment — when he’d lunged for her, his own momentum shoving her backwards — her back ached from slamming into the stone bridge — had that been enough? Would it be just enough to steal her dream, her miracle—

“I know, honey,” Kelly said, her own voice unsteady. “But your blood pressure was elevated in the ambulance, and it’s—” She took a deep breath. “It’s early. We want to be sure.”

Tears burned through her lashes, streaking down her cheeks, and Robin tipped her head back. They hadn’t heard the heartbeat at all yet — they were supposed to come next week for an ultrasound and now maybe there never would be—

Patrick brought her fist to his mouth, pressing his lips to her knuckles. “Whatever happens,” he told her, stroking her hair with his other hand, his eyes dark, fierce. “We’ll be okay. You’re okay. You’re here.”

“The—I want the baby. I know you weren’t sure, but I am, and I just—” She swallowed a sob, not wanting to watch Kelly reach for the wand—she couldn’t look at the screen. Didn’t want to know.

“I am sure,” Patrick said, and she focused on him, and now she saw the pain and worry in his eyes. “I want this baby, Robin. So let’s just take a deep breath, let Kelly work, and—”

A sound cut him off. Tinny at first, but then it came — the unmistakable thud thud of an electronic heartbeat.

Robin twisted her head back to look at the screen, the tears falling unchecked. “That’s—that’s the heartbeat.”

“Nice and steady, Mama.” Kelly took a deep breath, and the shine of her own tears was evidence. “Just what we’d expect.” She touched the screen, gesturing at the image. “There’s your baby. Eight weeks along, you said?”

“Closer to ten now,” Robin murmured, almost absently. That was her baby. Their baby. Right in front of them. And it was okay. It was still here.

Patrick’s breath was a bit shaky as he finally took a breath. “Steady. The—she’s okay? The baby, I mean.”

“So far so good. We’re going to keep you overnight, honey. Monitor, just as a precaution, but I’m cautiously optimistic.” Kelly squeezed Robin’s lower leg. “You’re okay, honey. Both of you.”

Robin could barely breath, couldn’t speak. She was okay. Their child had made it. And maybe there was some danger, but the worst was over—

“You’re okay.” Patrick leaned down, pressed his forehead against hers, and she felt his body shudder as he absorbed it. “When I got the call, when I thought—” He paused. “You’re okay,” he repeated. “Both of you. And Elizabeth. She’s okay. It’s over.”

“Over,” Robin echoed, closing her eyes. But was it really?

Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Spinelli hardly knew what to do with all the nervous energy. He’d needed to stay behind because of the boys, of course, and the Jackal knew exactly where his place was. Fair Elizabeth and Stone Cold needed to know Little Dude and Stone Cold the Sequel were safe—

He’d been focused then, keeping his thoughts and actions on distracting Cameron from realizing his mother was in danger. And Audrey Hardy had been a lot of help, though he’d read the worry in her face as she put Jake to sleep, and they both kept Cameron busy.

But now it was over. The killer was quiet, and all were safe.


Spinelli sat on the sofa, staring blindly at the Moby Dick paper with which he continued to struggle. It seemed silly now to have complained so much or to worry about it now.

“It doesn’t help,” Spinelli said, and Audrey glanced over from the armchair where she’d been precariously perched, watching the news coverage of everything intently. “To know the who, I mean. To know he’s caught. I thought it would.” He swallowed hard. “But it was someone I knew.”

“I didn’t realize…” Audrey straightened. “But he worked for Jason and Sonny—”

“Not that way,” Spinelli corrected hastily. “Just owned the security company. Not that there’s any other way,” he mumbled, staring at his hands.

“No, I—I heard what the news said. They contracted to the hospital, as well, Spinelli. I’m not holding Jason responsible for this. If this…” Audrey’s lips thinned. “If it hadn’t been tonight in this building, it might have been back at the hospital. Or anywhere else.”

“He knew Georgie a little,” Spinell said faintly. “Maybe that’s how he focused on her. And Emily. They both came here.” He swallowed hard. “Maybe Georgie’s dead because she knew me—”

“She’s dead because Ben Davis, for whatever reason, murdered her,” Audrey said gently. “If it hadn’t been her, it might have been someone else. We might never know what exactly happened in his brain to trigger any of this. The why might only make sense to him.”

“Doesn’t fix anything. I wanted to be relieved. To be happy. But it’s just…Fair Elizabeth and Dr. Robin are safe, this brings the Jackal joy,” Spinelli said awkwardly. “But it all feels…thin. Underneath, it’s just…numb, I guess.” He grimaced. “I’m not explaining it well.”

“Knowing that he can’t hurt anyone else, that my granddaughter and Robin are safe is a relief, and we’ll make that enough for now. But it doesn’t restore what’s been lost,” she said. She sat next to him, reaching for his hand. “For the lives we can’t bring back. For the families changed forever. But it’s at an end, my darling. At least we have that.”

General Hospital: Emergency Room

Maxie darted through the double doors, searching the crowd of people for her stepfather’s curly hair.

“Maxie, just—” Cooper tried to hold her back but Maxie wouldn’t be denied. She had to know. Had to be sure. She found him by the check-in desk and made a beeline for him.

“Mac?” She touched his arm. “Mac, they said on the news they found him. Was it—is it really—they said there were more hostages, but—”

Mac turned, brought her close. “It was Robin,” he said, and Maxie tensed, shoving back. “Robin and Elizabeth. He kidnapped and took them to another location, but they fought back. They escaped. Robin’s all right,” he added quickly. “And they caught the guy. Ben Davis. A security guy. His company contracted out to the campus.”

Maxie swallowed hard. “Robin? He had her—no one called or told me—” She pressed a fist to her chest. “But she’s okay. And the baby?” When he nodded, she took a deep breath. “Okay, okay. But you caught him. He’s in jail?”

“He’ll be transferred over in the morning. He’s in the hospital now. Maxie—”

“They caught him. It’s over.” Maxie looked at Cooper, but he was quiet, considering, waiting for her reaction. Her lips trembled. “It’s over.”

“Yes. It’s over. They nailed him, dead to rights. For the kidnapping and attempt today. It’s — it’s over, honey.” Mac stroked her hair, but Maxie stepped back.

“I thought I’d at least feel something when it was over,” she said softly. “But I don’t. There’s nothing. Georgie’s still dead, isn’t she?” Tears spilled over her lashes. “She’s still dead and I’m still here. Alone.”

She pressed her hands to her mouth, sobs wracking her frame, and sank to the floor before Cooper or Mac could catch her.

Quartermaine Mansion: Foyer

Monica emerged from the double doors of the parlor, closing the door and heading for the stairs. The front door opened, and Dillon stepped in, his face grave. Monica paused, her hand at the railing, her heart fluttering.

The last time Dillon had come to the house late in the evening—


“Hey. Um, listen—” He dragged a hand through his disheveled hair. “It’s on the news, and Lu just called — they caught the guy. They caught him.”

“Oh. Oh.” Monica absorbed this, then frowned. “There’s more, isn’t there? What else?”

“They caught him up at Rice Creek Bridge,” Dillon continued. “Um, he worked for a security company, the news said. That’s—that’s the connection. To the campus, the hospital, and to Harborview Towers.”

“Harbor—” Monica closed her mouth. “Dillon—”

“Everyone is safe,” Dillon added quickly. “But he kidnapped Robin and Elizabeth and took them to the bridge. I—I know they’re okay—” he continued as Monica flew towards the phone. “The news said so, but Lu talked to Spinelli, and she said they have to keep them both in the hospital—but they’re okay. It’s over.”

Monica clutched the edge of the table in the center of the foyer, her fingers digging into the rim. “Over,” she repeated. “The boys? They weren’t hurt.”

“No. Everyone’s good. Jason’s at the hospital with Elizabeth. I just—I wanted to make sure you knew. Or didn’t see it on the news or whatever. But it’s good. It’s over. They caught him. No question it’s the same guy.”

Monica nodded. “Okay. Okay. I should call Ned down at the gatehouse—oh, Edward already went up for the night.” She pressed her fingers to her lips, considering. “It’s over. Do—do they know the motive?”

“No. Does it matter?” Dillon asked, and she met his eyes. “I mean, knowing the why isn’t going to help. It won’t change it. Georgie will still be gone. Georgie and Chelsea and Emily—” He looked away. “I don’t care about why,” he said roughly. “He’s probably some kind of lunatic, and they’re dead. So who cares?”

He jerked open the mansion door and left, slamming the door behind. Monica exhaled slowly, then picked up the phone to call Ned.

General Hospital: Hallway

“Lucky. Lucky.”

Lucky found Nikolas jogging through the hallway, his face flushed. “Nikolas.”

“Is it true, is it? They found him—” Nikolas snagged Lucky’s arm. “Tell me it’s over.”

“Yeah.” Lucky stepped back from his brother. “Yeah, they found him. Excuse me—” he saw Mac over Nikolas’s shoulder, who had Robert following behind him. “I have work to do.”

“Wait. Wait, Lucky. Can I—”

“No.” Lucky turned away from Nikolas, uninterested in his apologies. Nikolas was good at that — being cruel in the moment, and apologizing later. But Lucky wasn’t ready to forget the pills tossed at him, to forgive the coldness.  Not yet.

“I know I shouldn’t be here. Or that I wasn’t supposed to be at the bridge,” Lucky began as Mac stopped in front of him.

“I’m sorry,” Mac said, and Lucky closed his mouth. “I already made the calls to reinstate you. To make sure the suspension or complaint doesn’t even go on the record. I’m sorry,” he said again. He nodded towards the door behind him. “I thought you might want to come in. Be part of the questioning.”

Lucky cleared his throat, turned towards the door. Behind it lay the man who had murdered five women. Who had nearly murdered two more tonight. He’d wrapped a wire around Emily’s neck and choked the life from her. He’d tried to do the same to Elizabeth.

“No, I don’t,” Lucky said finally. “Thank you. For saying you’d clear the record. But I think I need some time. I need—I need some time,” was all he could say.

“Of course—” Mac frowned, watching him walk away.

“Let’s get this over with,” Robert said grimly. He pushed open the door to find Ben Davis laying on the hospital bed, one hand handcuffed to the railing. A uniform stood up from where he’d sat next to the bed.

The killer was in traction, a leg pinned precariously up. There needed to be surgery to set it correctly, Robert knew. It would be done tonight, and he’d be moved to the county jail infirmary in the morning. Or as soon as possible.

But Robert just saw the man who’d tried to take his baby from him. Who had murdered so many.

“Has he said anything?” Robert asked the cop.

“Just mumbling about the job not being done. It didn’t make sense.”

“Hmm,” Robert nodded. He stepped up the bed. “You awake?” he asked, his voice harshly. “I have a question for you.”

Ben Davis opened his eyes, the pain in the dull brown depths reflecting back. “Hurts.”

“Why? Why did you do this? Why did you try to murder my daughter? Why did you murder those women?”

“Didn’t murder.” Ben closed his eyes again, sighed. “Saved them. My girls. All my girls. With bright smiles and bright lights. They’ll live forever now. In me.”


“Pairs. All perfect things in pairs. Two college girls. Two doctors. Two nurses.” His lips twisted. “Didn’t finish. Didn’t do the job. My final girls. They weren’t right. Chose badly. Their lights weren’t bright enough.”

Robert grimaced, then looked at Mac standing just inside the door. His little brother stalked out of the room, and Robert followed.


“Maxie—she said it wouldn’t matter. That knowing why wouldn’t fix it.” Mac met his eyes. “He’s crazy. Bright lights. Pairs. He stole my Georgie because of that? Christ—” His body shuddered. “Nearly killed Robin because of her light? Fuck that. Fuck it all.”

“It’s lunatic nonsense. The why never mattered, little brother. It will never bring you peace or happiness. The who is the only mystery that matters and we’ve solved it. It’s over. Georgie can rest. They can all rest. He can’t hurt them again. That’s the only promise we can ever make.”

General Hospital: Hospital Room

Elizabeth turned her head, resting her cheek against the thin white pillow, exhausted beyond measure. Adrenaline had drained away what little remained of her energy. And now she just wanted to close her eyes, and wish away the world.

Her hands had been bandaged — the tips of her fingers throbbed where her nails had been ripped off. Her throat was on fire, throbbing from the screaming and the thin wire—

She opened her eyes, saw Jason in one of the plastic uncomfortable chairs. Their eyes met. “Did I fall asleep?” she forced out.

“Shh, rest your voice,” he murmured. He picked up her hand, stroking the palm. “Yeah, for a little. They said if you wanted something to help you sleep longer, to call for it. The boys are all right,” he added when she opened her mouth again. “Spinelli and Audrey are looking after them. Cameron never even knew you were in danger. He thought you went to see Robin and watch a movie.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Gram. Can I?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” Jason leaned to one side, dug out his phone from his pocket. He pressed a button, then another so that the ringing echoed on the speaker phone.

“Hello? Jason?” Audrey’s voice asked.

Another tears slid down her cheek. “Gram.”

“Oh, honey.” Audrey’s voice thickened. “Darling. How are you?”

“Her throat is sore, so it’s hard for her to say a lot,” Jason said, then brought the phone closer to Elizabeth’s mouth.

“Okay, Gram. I’m okay. Love you.”

“I love you, too, sweetheart. Rest, let Jason take care of you. I’ll look after the boys.”

“Spinelli?” Elizabeth coughed, tried to clear her throat. “Take—he’s okay?”

“Fair Elizabeth, the Jackal is beyond happy to hear your lovely voice,” Spinelli said, though his voice sounded a bit further away. “She is kind to even think of the Jackal in this moment.”

Talking about himself and everyone as if they were characters again. Trying to protect himself.  “You’re one of my boys, aren’t you?” By the end of her words, her voice had faded to almost nothing.

“Of course he is,” Audrey said. “And you’ll be sure that I’ll look after Damien. I love you, Elizabeth. But you need to rest and take care of yourself.”

When they’d hung up, Elizabeth closed her eyes, then but they flew open. She looked at her hand — and her lips trembled. How silly to think of it right now, to worry about something that didn’t matter, but—

Jason took her hand, sliding the tip of his finger over the bare space where her engagement ring had rested. “I can try to find it,” he offered quietly. “Maybe it’s up at the bridge. Or in the car.”

“No,” she mouthed, the word little more than breath against her lips. “No.”

“Then I’ll get you another one. We’ll pick it out together. Or I’ll do it. Or you can. Whatever you want.” Jason brought her hand to his mouth, pressing his lips against the inside of her palm, then resting it against his cheek. “Whatever you want.”


“She’s okay. Baby is, too,” he added. He exhaled slowly, then stroked her hair with his other hand, gazing into her eyes. “I love you.” He leaned down, brushed his lips tenderly against ihs.

“Ditto,” was all Elizabeth could manage as their breath mingled. “You found me.”

He kissed her again. “Always.”

October 21, 2023

This entry is part 54 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 61 minutes.

Rice Creek Bridge

Jason didn’t even remember hitting the brakes or throwing the SUV into park. As he’d turned from the access road into the small dirt lot that served as the parking for the bridge, he’d seen Elizabeth flying away from the bridge, Ben hot on her heels. He’d thrown himself at her, tackling—

Jason was out of the SUV, the door still open, racing towards them, his heart racing, blood pounding in his ears, but they rolled over the edge before he was able to reach the edge—

He heard a scream, being cut off — but he was already throwing himself to the ground over the edge, reaching down because he knew—he knew—that if he could just get to her, Elizabeth would be there, holding on—she had to hold on—he didn’t have the room for any other ending—

She was kicking wildly, her feet not finding any purchase in the rocks that lined the edge of the gorge, and just as her hands slipped, as she lost her grip—Jason grabbed a forearm, his fingers digging into her skin so deeply he could almost feel the outline of the bone beneath the surface—

He hauled her back over the edge, her slight weight no match for the adrenaline of a man who was not going to lose one more person in his life, much less the one who mattered the most.

Elizabeth was sobbing, shaking, and trembling as he pulled her up and into his arms, clutching at her like he was drowning and she was all air he would ever need. She buried her face in his neck, and they sat there for a long moment, just holding each other at the edge.

“I knew you’d find me, I knew you’d get here, I knew—” her words were broken, shaky, but precious. Her voice hoarse, almost inaudible.

Jason drew back just enough to look at her, to find her beautiful eyes, to reassure himself that somehow he wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming — that she was really in his arms, that she was safe, and that the monster who’d tried to murder her — who had stolen his sister’s life — that he was gone, and that she was alive—

Her eyes were bloodshot, her cheeks scratched, bleeding, her lips dry and cracked, but she was there—whole and alive—

Jason cupped her face, leaned his forehead against hers. “You’re okay. You’re okay.” He repeated it to himself, thinking if he kept on saying it, he would believe it, but he was still trapped somehow, his mind still in those terrible moments, racing up the access road towards the bridge, terrified it would be too late.

“I’m okay, you’re here, and I’m okay—” She smoothed her thumbs over his skin. “You’re real. You’re real. Aren’t you? Tell me you’re real—”

He kissed her, and she sobbed her relief against his mouth, sinking into his embrace, a bit of the tension tight in her body easing.


He drew back, and came back to reality when he saw Robin limping towards them, her cheeks stained with tears, hair disheveled, a thin cut bleeding at her forehead.

Jason got to his feet, hauling Elizabeth up against his side. “Robin. You’re—you’re okay?”

“She saved me—” Robin’s voice broke, and she squeezed her eyes shut, pressing her hands to her mouth. “Oh, God. Oh, God. He had the wire. He was choking her—”

“You stopped him—” Elizabeth managed, and Jason looked at her again, this time seeing the thin red, angry line at her throat, and his heart simply stopped. The world went still. Those same marks had been on Emily, cold and blue with death.


“She got out of the trunk—” Elizabeth stepped away from Jason, went towards Robin, and they collapsed into each other’s arms. “You stopped him. Thank you. Thank you.”

The squeal of brakes broke through Jason’s distraction, and he turned — Lucky and Robert were out of the car before the engine had fully gone silent, Robert racing towards his daughter.

“Daddy!” Robin was sobbing as she fell into his arms. “You came!”

Jason reached for Elizabeth again, not wanting to be away from her, still wondering somehow if he’d come to his senses and it would all be a lie. He’d watched her fall off a cliff—what if she’d actually gone over, and now—

“You—” Lucky approached them, his eyes sweeping over the scene. “Where is he? What happened?”

“I can’t—” Elizabeth closed her eyes, pressing a hand to her throat wincing. “He’s—he fell. We got away. But he fell.”

Lucky looked past her, towards the edge, then back at her, his eyes zeroing in her hands, swallowing hard. “Okay. Okay. I’ll go down. See what’s going on. Mac and the others—the paramedics—they’re on their way.”

Jason hesitated, then looked to Robert who was cataloging his daughter’s injuries, taking her pulse. “I’ll go with you. You shouldn’t do it alone. There’s no guarantee the fall killed him or injured him badly enough—” He took a breath, looked at Elizabeth. “Stay up here. With Robin.”

“All right.” She swallowed hard. “Hurry back, okay? I want to get out of here.”

“We need to be sure,” Jason said. He kissed the inside of her palm, his stomach clenching at the damage done to her beautiful hands. The fingernails had been broken on every finger, and were missing entirely from two of them.

But she was alive, and she would heal.

Jason reluctantly left Elizabeth to Robert’s care, and grimly followed Lucky down the winding path that traversed the rocky descent from the bridge down to the thin, but steady flowing creek that fed into Lake Ontario.

If it struck either of them as odd that they’d be working together on this last leg of the tragic journey, neither mentioned it. Lucky went ahead, and Jason followed. Only a month ago, they’d been in court, on the opposite sides of the aisle. Jason had walked away with the family Lucky had fought so hard to keep—

It felt like a lifetime had passed between that day and this.

On the banks of the creek, nearby the remains of a fallen tree, they found their killer.

Ben Davis lay on his back, staring up the sky. He was still alive, his breathing labored. Blood trickled from his mouth, and one of his leg at an odd angle.

Jason stared at him — this man to whom he’d given so much trust — Ben had destroyed so many lives. Not just the women whose lives he’d ended, but the people around them. Would anyone ever feel safe again?

“It would be so easy,” Lucky murmured, and Jason looked at him sharply. “Put a hand over his mouth,” he continued. “No one would look that closely. It would be over.”

“It would,” Jason agreed, and he almost agreed. Whether he or Lucky did the deed, he knew neither would ever say a word to reveal the crime. Ben had destroyed them both when he’d taken Emily from them—he hadn’t needed to target Elizabeth, the woman that they’d both loved for so long.

Lucky exhaled shakily. “But that’s not who I want to be. And that’s not who you are either.” He looked at Jason. “It’s not who we are. Not like this. Not with Elizabeth up there, bleeding and traumatized. She needs you. And it would only make me like him. Killing for pleasure.” He looked back at the barely conscious murderer at his feet. “He doesn’t get to have that power over me.”

Jason nodded. It would have been risky, he thought. And for Lucky, Jason understood. It really wasn’t who Lucky wanted be. But Jason had no such moral objection. The time wasn’t right, but it would be. If Ben Davis survived, he’d go to prison. And one day—

One day there would be retribution. There would be payment in blood.

But not today.

“I’ll stay down here,” Lucky said after another moment. “He’s not going anywhere. Go back up.” Their eyes met. “Take care of her.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I’m sorry,” he said finally. “For my part. I never should have—”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Lucky murmured, but he looked back at Ben. “But it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s over. All of it. All we can do now is move on. Emily would want it that way. I was angry with her at the end,” he said. “And I never told her how much I loved her. How much she changed my life.”

“She knew.”

“I hope that’s true.” Sirens echoed in the air, and Lucky looked up towards the edge above them. “Cavalry’s finally here.”

General Hospital: Emergency Room

Mac’s words still echoed in Patrick’s ears as he paced the area by the entrance of the emergency room. He’s got her. He’s got Robin and Elizabeth. We’re on it. We know where he is, and we’ll get her back.

Even the follow up call with the news that they’d been rescued — that they were alive and had somehow saved themselves — Patrick couldn’t rest, couldn’t let himself take a full breathe.

What had Robin gone through in the last hour? What had happened to her? She must have been so scared, and he’d been stuck at the hospital — and the baby. Miscarries were so common at this stage—her blood pressure, a traumatic fall — anything might trigger it.

“I won’t bother telling you to relax,” Kelly said from behind him and he whirled around to find the doctor studying him with worried eyes. “I’ll take good care of her. And do my best for the baby.”

Patrick opened his mouth, but his throat tightened and he couldn’t force any sounds past it. He pressed his lips together, dipped his head, squeezed his eyes shut.

“Robin’s tough,” Kelly said softly. She squeezed Patrick’s forearm. “You know that. Tough as nails. And any child of hers will be too stubborn—”

“That’s not how it works, and you know it,” Patrick managed. “It’s not. We’re doctors, Kelly. Don’t give me those bullshit platitudes.”

“All right, I won’t. I just—” Kelly bit her lip. “But—”

“And don’t be nice to me,” he bit out. “You don’t get to pretend like we’re still friends, Kelly—”


“No. No. You don’t get to stand here and hold my hand like you haven’t treated me like a goddamn leper for just be honest with how I felt,” Patrick continued, feeling ruthless and furious. “How many times did you and Lainey jump down my throat—well are you happy now? Are you? You told me I’d figure out what I wanted and it’d be too late, and maybe it is—”

“Come with me,” Epiphany said, dragging Patrick away from a shell-shocked Kelly. “Don’t take it out on her, either. Robin’s alive. Focus on that, you hear me?”


“A whole lot of women went up against this madman and they didn’t make it. Robin did. Elizabeth did. So let’s see what we see. And let the rest of it take care of itself.”

He nodded, then turned at the sirens of the ambulance. He raced outside just as one pulled into the bay. The doors opened, and a paramedic jumped out, barking out information to Kelly and her team.

They slid down the stretcher from the back, and Patrick got his first look at Robin, her eyes open, her face pale. “Robin.”


“Hey. Hey.” He flicked one look at Robert, before grabbing Robin’s hand and falling into step with the rest of the team as they rolled her inside and towards a curtain. “Hey, I’m right here.” He brought their joined hands to his mouth. “I’m right here.” Whatever happens. He wouldn’t go anywhere.

A few minutes later, a second ambulance pulled into the lot, and Epiphany was relieved to see Elizabeth being rolled out next, though her breath caught at the marks on her throat. Jason hopped down next to her, refusing to let go of her hand.

“Vitals are stable enough, though blood pressure and heartbeat are elevated,” the paramedic reported, reeling off numbers. “Bruising and cuts. Nothing life threatening.”

“Hey, honey, it’s good—” Epiphany felt her eyes fill as she fell into step with the stretcher on Elizabeth’s side. The marks at the throat, the fingernails ripped from her fingers— “Hey, honey.”

“Epiphany.” Elizabeth managed a smile. “Hey. I’m okay. Don’t…don’t cry.”

“I never cry,” Epiphany said, even as the first tears started to fall. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Elizabeth managed a faint smile. “Jason. The boys.”

“I’ll call Spinelli.” He kissed her hand, his expression darkening slightly as his finger slid over her fingers. Her bare fingers. Epiphany exhaled slowly, remembering the diamond that had shone brightly just a few days earlier. It was gone now.

Jason watched reluctantly as doctors whisked Elizabeth in for x-rays, knowing he couldn’t follow. Epiphany promised to stay with her. He dug into his pocket for his phone.

“Stone Cold? Is all well?” Spinelli’s panicked, thready voice answered. “Elizabeth. Please. She’s all right?”

“She’s—” Jason took a breath. “She’s okay. She and Robin. We’re at the hospital to be sure. Is Audrey there?”

“Yes. Yes. Here—” Spinelli’s  voice faded, and then Audrey was on the line.

“Jason? She’s all right? You’re sure?”

“Some—” He had trouble forming the words, scraping his hand down his face. “She’s all right. Bruises. Cuts. But she’s okay. Can you—I mean—you’ll stay with the boys tonight?”

“Of course, darling. And please, please, as soon as she’s able, can someone—I would like to hear my granddaughter’s voice.”

“As soon as we can. I promise.”

He ended the call, and found Sonny behind him, expression concerned, his hair a bit disheveled. “Did you get my message?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know you said they were okay, but I wanted to see for myself—” Sonny swallowed hard. “What about Ben?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t wait around to find out. He couldn’t move. Broke a leg and some ribs in the fall,” Jason said tightly. They heard another ambulance siren, and looked towards the entrance. A few minutes later, a third stretcher rolled through, and it was him. Ben. His eyes were closed, and a hand was handcuffed to the side of the stretcher.  There was a small army of uniformed officers who followed after him.

Jason wanted to follow, wanted to choke the life from the man who’d stolen so many lives, and had tried to murder Elizabeth and Robin tonight —

But from the opposite direction, he saw Epiphany beckoning him towards a curtained area. “Sonny—”

“Yeah, I’ll stay on that. You go take care of Elizabeth. She’s alive — she and Robin got away. And that’s all the matters right now.” Sonny’s expression was flat. “The rest can come later.”

October 15, 2023

This entry is part 53 of 56 in the Flash Fiction: Watch Me Burn

Written in 56 minutes.

Car: Front Seat

Never again would she watch a thriller or a horror movie and be angry with the stupid girl who made all the wrong choices and ended up dead—

Then again, Elizabeth likely wasn’t going to be watching any more movies after today, but if she survived — she’d never again judge that stupid girl for running up the stairs and not out the door—

You had a split second to make your choices. Not even that really. Every nerve, every cell in her body had flooded with fear, terror. This madman—this psychotic lunatic who kept babbling about how she and Robin were his perfect girls, his finale, his masterpiece—he’d been so close to her babies. To the boys she loved more than anything on this planet, and she’d just wanted him away.

And now she was next to him, speeding along the road, Robin locked in a trunk, and Ben Davis, the security tech she’d only vaguely noticed before today, driving them towards some public place suitable for their murders.

He’d kill Elizabeth first, she knew. And then drag Robin out of the trunk and kill her, too. Could she have done something else? Maybe there would have been time to get inside the penthouse and keep him away—but what if he’d had a key? He’d been able to get in the elevator hadn’t he?

And in the elevator, in the parking garage, he’d murdered that guard and she didn’t even know his name. He hadn’t blinked. Just shot him twice — could they have run? Where? To the elevator? Through the parking garage?

No, she’d never judge that silly girl in the movies ever again.

Elizabeth licked her lips, tried to focus, her eyes darting around madly. They’d been on Harborview Road, speeding out of downtown and towards the hills — past the estates where the Quartermaines and Barringtons and other members of Port Charles society lived — public didn’t have to mean where people were, she realized now. It just meant out in the open.

He could take them into the woods and murder them. No one would know where they’d ended up, would they? She’d left her cell phone on the phone.

She caught something in the side mirror — an SUV traveling behind them, and relief flooded so suddenly she had to bit down hard on her lip, tasting the metallic tang of blood, because otherwise she might have begun to sob.

That was Jason. Somehow, he’d already found them. He knew where she was. And maybe he wouldn’t be in time to save her, but Robin and her baby —

But maybe they were due a miracle. He was there—

“Damn it!” Ben swore, and her head swung sharply, horrified to realize he’d looked in his own rearview mirror. And of course, oh God, of course he’d recognize Jason’s SUV. He probably knew the license plate from upgrading the security on it.

“Not this time,” the lunatic muttered, his fingers flexing at the wheel. “Not this time. He won’t be here to save you. Not this time.”


He’d followed the strange car for what felt like forever before Spinelli had called back, his voice tinny and thin on the speakerphone that bled out of the dashboard. “The phone signal is on Harborview Road — it’s pinging from the tower near Vista Point —

“Got it,” Jason said.

“But Stone Cold, there was a shooting,” Spinelli continued, his tone thready, laced with nerves. “Guard down stairs in the parking garage. Cameras. Wally said it was Ben.”


Ben Davis.

He’d owned the security company before Jason had bought it out after Sonny had left him in charge all those years ago, He still did — on paper. It was easier to employ guards through the front. It looked more legit than having their private army, which was closer to the truth, and Sonny had kept the fiction alive after he’d taken back control. Ben had never been part of the inner circle, but—

He’d had access to it all long.

The man Jason had known for more than a decade had murdered his sister. Had kidnapped Elizabeth and Robin, had killed Sam —

“Okay,” Jason said, his voice flat. Toneless. He wouldn’t let the horror of it take over. Couldn’t. One focus. One mission.

He pressed on the gas pedal. He was right behind them. Nothing would hurt her. “I need you to make sure Sonny knows that. And Robert. Call him. Everyone, Spinelli. I’m on Harborview—damn it!”

Jason slammed on the brakes, and the SUV started to skid, spinning in a circle — but it was too late — he’d missed the turn —

Ben’s car had abruptly swerved onto the access road leading up into the hills, toward the bridge over Rice Creek — where Robin had spent so much time with Stone, where Jason had kissed her for the first time — where he’d taken Elizabeth and taught her to the box —

But it had been an abrupt turn and Jason had missed it — and now he was behind him — even if he sped up —

“Stone Cold?” Spinelli’s panicked voice broke through. “What’s wrong?”

“They’re going towards Rice Creek,” Jason said. “But I’m behind them now. Tell everyone.” And he cut the call. He had to focus.

He had to believe he’d be in time.

PCPD: Commissioner’s Office

“I really don’t need this headache,” Mac said, stalking away from the window and glaring at Harper. “Jason Morgan isn’t really a suspect—we’ll get the meeting set up later with Diane. I need to know where we are on our short list of suspects—”

“We need to snip this end,” Harper continued, but Mac just scowled at him. “Can you focus on what the press is going—”

“I don’t give a god damn what the press is going to do—” The phone at his belt vibrated, and Mac snatched it up. “Yeah?”

“Mac, he’s got Robin.”

Robert’s tense words flattened Mac’s world, and then everything spun. “What?”

“She’s in the trunk of a car possibly on Harborview Road—what? Wait—”

“Don’t tell me to wait, goddamn it,” Mac snapped. But there were other voices, something else happening in the background. “Robert!”

“Spinelli on Spencer’s phone. They’re heading for Rice Creek. Suspect is Ben Davis. Get everyone there. Now.”

The line went dead, and Mac clenched his hand around the phone for just a second before focusing on Harper. “Rice Creek bridge. Get every available patrol car on their way. He’s got Robin. Ben Davis is the guy.”

“Ben Davis? He’s on the short list, but how—”

“Goddamn it—” Mac’s hand flashed out, and gripped Harper’s shirt in a vicious grip. “Do what I said! Shut the fuck up and get everyone to Rice Creek! Now!” He released Harper who stumbled away, then dashed out the door.

Mac took a deep breath, then looked at his phone—and searched through his contacts until he found Patrick’s number.

Car: Trunk

“Daddy? What’s going on?” Robin’s voice trembled as she tried to get her father back on the line. Robert had been talking to her, but then his voice had become muffled, and she was terrified. What if he’d lost them? What if—

“Robin. Honey. We know where you’re going. We know where you are. We’re coming. Okay? We’re going to be there—”


“Rice Creek. And baby, Jason is right behind you. He was following, all right? And we’re maybe five minutes behind.”

“Two,” came Lucky’s faint voice. “Less if I can manage. Hold on, Robin. We’re coming.”

Robin felt the car begin to slow, her pulse racing. And then she yelped as she abruptly slid forward against the wall that separated the trunk from the back of the car.

Oh. Oh, no.

The car had stopped.


“The car stopped.” She felt the wall with her fingers, then her heart seized when she felt a seam in the softness. “Oh, God. Daddy. I can get out of the trunk this way. I can get into the car—”

“Robin, don’t do anything stupid—”

“Shut up—” Robin heard a car door slam, then a scream. “Oh, God. Dad. He’s got Elizabeth. I have to stop him. I love you, okay? I love you. And tell Patrick I love him, too. I love you all.”

Then she hung up the phone.

Car: Front Seat

“Robin!” Robert shouted, but it was useless, too late. She’d hung up. “Spencer—”

“I heard.” Lucky never took his eyes off the road. Had to focus. Had to do this right. He’d only have one chance to make the twists and turns — one wrong move, one turn taken at the wrong speed, and he’d flip the car —

And Robin and Elizabeth might be dead before they could reach them. He wouldn’t think about Robin’s last words. That Elizabeth was already outside the car. That even Jason, closer than either of them, that he wouldn’t be able to get there in time.

Lucky refused to believe they wouldn’t make it.

This wouldn’t be one more failure for him. He would get them there in time. And Robin and Elizabeth would survive to raise their children and live long, happy lives.

He wouldn’t let Elizabeth down again.

The turn for the access road towards the Rice Creek bridge was uphead and Lucky prepared to take the turn.

Nearly there.

Rice Creek Bridge

He didn’t even give Elizabeth time to think — the car had jerked to a stop just before the bridge that rode high over the creek and he’d gripped her upper arm tightly, his fingers digging into the skin, then dragged her across the front seat.

She kicked and screamed — grasping wildly at anything she could to stop him from getting her out of the car — from being out in the open —

Because there would the wire, wouldn’t it— if he couldn’t get the wire around her neck then—

But he was stronger than her, and he got her through the driver’s door. She clawed, spit, and continued to kick, thrashing wildly, screaming — praying that somehow Jason had been able to catch up again, that he’d been able to follow them —

That someone would hear —

“God damn it, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be—” Ben panted. He backhanded her across the face, finally and Elizabeth went flying, cracking her head against the side of the bridge.

Her head spun, and there were stars and ringing in her ears — it took a moment — just one moment too long to get her sense —

But the wire was already around her neck — the thin cord digging into her skin—Elizabeth gasped, curling her fingers around it, shoving herself back and throwing him off his balance — the cord slipped just enough so she could get her fingers underneath—

“You fucking bitch! You goddamn whore!” Ben was screaming, and weeping—and then his hands were around her neck and she dug at it, her nails ripping—

Then there was a single gunshot exploding in the air, and Ben grunted, his fingers falling away.

Elizabeth, sobbing, choking, frantically crawled away, dimly realizing that somehow, Robin was standing there, her hair disheveled, her eyes wild, a gun clutched in her hands.

Ben was on the ground, his hand pressed to his shoulder. Robin re-aimed, but he was already growling, launching himself at her. Robin shot again, but he’d slammed into her and this time the bullet went wild.

They fell against the bridge, Robin’s back pressed against the stone as they grappled for the gun. He hit her hard and got the gun away from her — he tossed it over the the edge of the bridge, then reached into his pocket. The wire came out now and Robin was screaming —

Elizabeth stumbled to her feet, weaving, barely able to think as she ran towards them. She hurled herself at Ben, and it knocked him to the ground. Robin fell to the side, breathing hard, her cheeks flushed, stained with tears.

Now Elizabeth ran, rushing back towards the car and the parking lot beyond it, towards the access road — Jason was coming — he’d be there—

Ben slammed into her, tackling her to the ground. She screamed, kicking and pushing, and shoving — he was grunting, and they were rolling —

And then there was nothing. No ground below them. Elizabeth screamed, reaching out, her hands finding rocks and clinging to them —

But Ben continued to fall, his own scream cut off by a thud and a grunt.

There was a squeal of brakes, car doors slamming, but Elizabeth barely registered any of it. Her fingernails were already torn and bloody, her fingers slipping and sliding. She clung with all her grip to the side of the gorge —

But she couldn’t hold on. She had nothing left to give—her fingers slid another few centimeters, and then she was falling.