Sequel to A Few Words Too Many. This scene is not the opening, but it’s the Liason scene and the longest one.
All day starin’ at the ceilin’ makin’
Friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices tellin’ me
That I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good for somethin’
Hold on, feelin’ like I’m headed for a breakdown
And I don’t know why
– Unwell, Matchbox 20
Friday, May 1, 2007
Harborview Towers: Hallway
The elevator doors slid open and Jason winced when he saw who was waiting on the other side. “Carly,” he sad warily. “I didn’t know you were here.”
“Someone had to hang out with Elizabeth and the kids,” Carly said as he stepped out. “What’s this I hear about Puerto Rico?”
“I’m not happy about it either—”
“Then don’t go. I thought the whole reason you took Elizabeth’s guard was so some other guy could do stuff down there.” She folded her arms. “I seem to remember you running off to Puerto Ric when she was pregnant the first time, and I told you were dumb then.”
“You didn’t.” That had been Sonny ironically.
“Oh.” Carly furrowed her brow. “Well, I meant to. Seriously, Jase, what gives? Why isn’t Sonny taking this run? I know you always switch off, but this is insane. Sonny doesn’t have a wife and two and a half kids at home. I keep telling her to get a nanny—”
“It’s a nonstarter,” Jason said. “But I’ll try again.”
“You do that.” Carly paused. “Listen, I know I nag you a lot, and I’m sorry for it. Sonny got you in the divorce, which means I got stuck with the Muffin—”
“Four years, Carly, and you’re still coming up with excuses.” But Jason smiled, because he knew the concern came from a genuine place. “It’s okay to admit you like each other.”
“Never.” Carly sniffed and pressed the button for the elevator. “When this baby pops out, you better give the girl a break.” She made a cutting gesture with her fingers. “Snip, snip, Jase.”
Jason winced, and went to the penthouse. Inside, he was surprised that it was mostly quiet, with Elizabeth on the sofa, her legs up, and a sketch pad in her hands. He stopped for just a moment, flashing back to another moment just like this. He’d been leaving for Puerto Rico, she’d been mere weeks away from delivery—
But today was different. Elizabeth looked up, smiled at him. No shadows in her eyes, no sadness in their depths. He crossed the room to kiss her, then lifted her legs to sit down. “What did you do with the kids? Carly tie them up?”
“No, thought about it though. Cam’s down for his nap, and Cady’s playing with her dolls. Carly bribed her,” Elizabeth admitted.
Jason nodded. “Worth it. I’m sorry about this,” he said with a sigh. “I know this sucks.”
“It does. But it won’t be long,” Elizabeth said. “It’s not like before,” she said softly and their eyes met. “You’re coming home to me as soon as you can. I know that. Em’s coming over to hang out tomorrow and spending the night, and Robin said she had foundation stuff on Sunday. Sonny will be right across the hall, which Max will be, too.”
“And Kevin,” Jason said.
“And Kevin. Sorry I keep forgetting about him,” Elizabeth admitted with a wince. “It’ll get better during the summer. The kids will get to know him.”
“I’m sorry about Cody.”
“Stop apologizing. Cody’s earned his promotion. I’m happy for him.” Elizabeth leaned back against the armrest. “How long until you have to leave for the airport?”
“I need to be there in an hour, so I need to go pack.” He got to his feet, kissed her again. “I’ll stop in with the kids.”
“I’ll enjoy my solitude for as long as it lasts. We’re adding another kid to this mix, we can kiss silence goodbye for at least a decade.”
“I like the noise.” He grinned when she just made a face, then went upstairs.
It didn’t take him long to toss a few things into a duffel bag. He looped the strap over his shoulder, then went cross the hall, knocking gently on the open door.
Cady’s room was still decorated with the peaches and cream colors, her name painted in an arch that spanned over her bed where her crib had once set. A few months after bringing her home, Elizabeth had stenciled Caroline beneath the swirling pink letters above it, Cadence Audrey.
In the corner, an elaborate Victorian style doll house stood. Elizabeth had been a little hesitant to get it this year—Cady was only three and still learning how to be careful with things but she’d wanted it so much—
And Jason never said no when yes was possible.
Cady sat at the base of the house, her tiny fingers clutched around one of her dolls. Her dark brown, nearly black hair, hung half down her back, tangled in some places likely from running after her brother.
“Hey,” Jason said softly. She twisted her head, and her face—miniature replica of Elizabeth’s except for her caramel brown eyes—lit up.
“Daddy!” She jumped to her feet and raced across the room. He scooped her up in his arms, hugged her tightly. She always greeted him just like this—as if they’d been separated by decades and oceans, and not a matter of hours and miles. “You back from the plane?”
“Haven’t left yet.” He kissed her forehead and set her down on the bed, perching next to her. “I need to ask you a big favor.”
Cady sighed. “Okay, I don’t take Mr. Buttons again. Even if Cam drops him, and it’s funny.”
“Well, yeah, that’s a good idea—” Jason frowned, then shook his head. “But that’s not the favor. I have to go away for two days. That’s two nights. Two mornings.”
“Very long. Don’t like.”
“Me either, but getting older means doing things you don’t like.”
“I stay young forever. No adulting, Aunt Car says. She says it sucks.”
“She’s not wrong. You know Mommy gets tired really easily right now.”
“Because the baby kicks a lot. It’s not nice. I tell him that when he gets here.”
“I know you will.” He smiled at the thought of his daughter lecturing a baby. He couldn’t wait to see it. Cady had been eighteen months old when Cameron had joined them, so she probably didn’t remember much. “I need you to be a really great big sister and help Mommy take care of Cameron.”
Cady wrinkled her noes. “Do I gots to?”
“Yeah. I know I don’t have to worry with you looking out for him. You’re his big sister. And he’s going to be a big brother in a few weeks. He needs to know how to do it.”
“That true,” she nodded somberly. “He needs lots of practice. So okay. I help. I get him up and dressed so Mommy doesn’t.” She tucked herself into his side. “Don’t want you to go, Daddy.”
“I know. I’ll call you every day,” he promised. “And I’ll send you postcards just like always. Even though they’ll get here after I’m already home.” He hugged her one more time, wishing he could just stay here. He hated leaving them behind. Most of the time, he’d taken them with him — leaving them on the island while he was in Puerto Rico, then he’d join them for a day or two, completing his own work in less than a day to spend as much time as he could.
This would be the longest he’d left Cady since Italy more than two years ago.
“Love you, Daddy,” Cady said, squeezing hard, though it felt like a feather trying to hold on. “I take good care of Cam. And Mommy.”
“Love you, too.” He kissed her forehead again, held her close for just another minute. “You probably still owe Aunt Carly some doll playing time.”
“Yep.” Cady climbed off the bed, went back to her dolls and pointed at the clock on her wall. “Aunt Car says when the big hand gets to the twelve.”
“That’s fifteen more minutes.” Thank God for Carly, though he’d never say that outloud.
He reluctantly left Cady playing in her room before going next door to peek in on Cameron, sprawled out on his race car bed, his sunny blond hair dim in the shadows. He adjusted the covers over the two-year-old, kissed the top of his head, and closed the door behind him.
Downstairs, he set the duffel on the floor. “No one’s coming over tonight?” he asked, and Elizabeth frowned, setting aside her sketch pad.
“No. We’re good. Sonny said he’d bring over dinner so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.” Elizabeth slid off the sofa, and he hurried over to help her up. “A few more weeks—I can’t wait.”
“Me either.” He rested his hand over her belly, enjoying the press of the baby’s foot against his fingers. “And we made it the whole time without knowing if it’s a boy or girl.”
“You say that like it was in doubt. I told you — this baby was a happy accident. Everything about him—or her—should be a surprise.” She fisted her hand in his shirt to tug him down for a kiss. “Stop worrying,” she murmured, winding her arms around his neck. “It’s under control.”
“I’ll never stop worrying about you. Or the kids.” He rested his forehead against hers. “I love you.”
“I love you, too. Hurry home.”