Flash Fiction: Chain Reaction – Part 11

This entry is part 11 of 20 in the Flash Fiction: Chain Reaction

Written in 60 minutes.


Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

PCPD RAID CORINTHOS-MORGAN WAREHOUSE NO ARRESTS MADE

“That’s the third day this thing has been in the headlines,” Courtney said as Jason came in from the kitchen, a cup of coffee in his hand. “Do they think they can change history or something if they keep mentioning that there’s been no arrests every day?”

Jason grunted, only half-listening. The PCPD always raided the warehouse this time of year, and they never found anything, but Courtney wasn’t used to that kind of thing, he thought. He pulled the desk chair, sat, and reached for invoices. “Something will happen and distract them.”

“I just hope it’s not stressing Carly out,” Courtney said, folding the paper over, then tossing it on the table, missing when Jason’s irritation at the mention of Carly’s name. He’d never noticed it before the last few weeks, but not a single conversation could be had without one or two mentions of either Sonny or Carly.

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Jason said absently, skimming the customs notice from the vendor in Caracas. “She and Sonny aren’t even fighting this week.”

“You came in late last night. I didn’t tell you. It wasn’t a bad one, but Carly threatened to move out this time.”

“She always does that.”

“But—” Courtney made a face. “Anyway, Sonny seemed to calm down when she told him she’d make me manager of The Cellar and go on maternity leave as soon as I learn the ropes, so that’s cool, right?”

“Yeah, great.” Jason reached for a pencil, scratched out a note about the quantity on the invoice.

She narrowed her eyes. “I really love it there, you know. I think I could be good at it. And it’d make a great place for a reception. For the wedding.”

Jason exhaled slowly, looked over at her. “No.”

“You still don’t want to talk about it at all?” she scowled, folded her arms. “It’s been a month, Jason. You promised you’d try—”

He flinched, his fingers tightening around the pencil, then he stared down at the invoices. “I am trying,” he said, though the words felt like a lie even to him. “I told you I’d let you know when I was ready to talk about it.”

“Can you look away from your damn papers long enough to have a conversation with me? Because this is getting ridiculous, Jason. What was the point of you staying if you never talk to me? You don’t want to make plans, you don’t even—” Her lower lip jutted around and her eyes filled. “You don’t even touch me.”

Jason tossed the pencil aside, dragged a hand down the side of his face. “Courtney—”

“Do you know how it feels to know that the last woman you slept with, that you even kissed was her? We’re like roommates that share a bed,” she spat.

He pushed back from the desk, stood, then looked at her, wondering when he’d started to be irritated by how easy it was for her to cry, and how little it bothered him anymore. She could switch it off and on with little warning — and had that always bee true? “Do you want me to have to sex with you to prove a point?” he asked, more harshly than he meant, and her eyes widened. “That’s what you’re complaining about, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s not—I mean, okay, it’s that, but it’s—” She swallowed hard. “It’s all the ways you’re not even here, okay? Why did you even say you’d stay or try if you weren’t going to do either of those things?”

“I—” He grimaced, then nodded. She was right. He hadn’t meant to withdraw or hold himself back — but all of that had always come naturally before it had all gone crazy.  She’d always been the affectionate one, grabbing his arm, hugging him, initiating things. And he’d just let her. He  hadn’t realized that until she’d stopped. How much of their relationship was  just him reacting? He didn’t like the way that felt — that he could be capable of just using someone because they were there. He thought he’d become better than that — better than those days at Jake’s with Carly and not caring about who she was or what she wanted outside of the ten-fifteen minutes in bed.  “I’m sorry,” Jason said finally. “You’re right, and I’m sorry. Maybe—”

“Maybe we just need to start small,” Courtney cut in a rush. “Okay? You probably need to go to the warehouse a-and I need to go see Carly. She’s going to start training me. We—we’ll just meet for lunch, right? At Kelly’s. Noon?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jason said with a sigh, knowing Elizabeth worked closing and that it would be safe enough to head over. He said nothing else as Courtney gathered her things and left in a hurry.

He’d promised Elizabeth three weeks ago at Kelly’s that he’d go home and he’d put everything into this. He’d chosen Courtney, hadn’t he? The life they’d had before Carly’s kidnapping had to mean something. He’d proposed to her—

But then that night, talking to Elizabeth, Jason hadn’t realized just how much had happened in his life in those few months — between Alcazar’s murder, being arrested and put on trial, all the problems Ric had caused — when had he made the decision to spend the rest of his life with Courtney? The more he tried to pinpoint that moment — the more he realized that…he hadn’t.

It made him feel a little sick inside that he’d done that because Carly had brought it up. Courtney fit, Carly said, and Jason agreed. She did fit and it was easy with her. She didn’t push or demand and she didn’t make him feel crazy or like he was a lunatic the way Elizabeth had. So that was love, wasn’t it? She understood and accepted his life. Elizabeth hadn’t—or maybe she would have if he’d trusted her—

Jason shook his head, reached for his coffee, then made a face. It had gone too cold while he’d argued with Courtney. She was right — it wasn’t exactly fair to her that the last woman Jason had shown any physical affection for had been Elizabeth. It had driven Jason crazy to know she’d slept with Zander instead of waiting for him—

His fingers curled around the handle of the cup, his glower would have made some cross the street to get away from him. It did no good to think about those times. All the mistakes. All the pain and turmoil. He’d told Elizabeth he didn’t want her to feel bad about any of those things anymore, but maybe Jason was the one who needed to stop thinking about it.

He didn’t know exactly what to do, but every day he was more and more certain that the answer couldn’t be Courtney. He just didn’t know to fix everything he’d broken by choosing her in the first place.

Kelly’s: Dining Room

Elizabeth flashed a smile at one of her old regulars, then lifted a brow when she saw Nikolas seated at the counter. “Do you live here or something?”

“No, but Mrs. Lansbury retired,” he muttered. “Something about not wanting to cook for one person. Why are you here? Did you switch back?” he called as she headed into the kitchen to stow her purse and tie on her apron.

“I told Mike I wanted some extra shifts. I love my studio, but I think maybe it’s time to invest in a place with a bathroom. And a heating system that doesn’t require a boot to the radiator. I almost have enough for a deposit—” She pointed her pencil at Nikolas. “No.”

“I wasn’t—” He made a face. “You know, I just think that if you accepted a little help—”

“No.”

“Fine.” Nikolas sighed, pushed his chili around in the bowl. “How’s the closing shift?”

“For the first week, it was okay. But then—” she bit her lip, but she had to tell someone, and Nikolas was the only person she could burden with it. Emily was still too ill and…well, those were her options, she realized with a sigh. “Ric started coming in two weeks ago.”

“The hell—how did he know? Did someone tell him?” Nikolas demanded. His shoulders tensed. “It’s time to talk Cassadine. I know people. Let me call people. I am begging you—”

“He’s an ADA now, Nikolas. Why do you think he’s still breathing?” Elizabeth said. She shook her head. “He’s forcing the divorce to go to court, which is awful honestly. New York’s laws are terrible, did you know that?”

“He’s making you prove the grounds?”

“I filed for cruel and inhumane treatment because just a regular separation would take six months, but I can’t—” She rubbed her forehead. “I don’t know. I need evidence of what he did to me. Of what he did to Carly, and if he can’t be prosecuted—”

“Once again, I know people. Hey, you know people. Why don’t we get our people together and let them solve problems?”

“I have no people. Don’t say things like that.” Elizabeth disappeared to check on tables and take orders. When she had a minute she returned to Nikolas scooping up the rest of his chili. “How are you, anyway? Have you been to see Emily?”

“If this is your idea of changing the topic to a happier one, I gotta say, you suck at it.” When she just arched a brow, he sighed. “It’s going. I know they’re moving into Brenda’s old place. I hope things work out for them, I do.”

“You absolutely do not.”

“I don’t, and I hope he cuts himself on a rusty nail and trips into a table saw,” Nikolas muttered. She smiled at that, and he sighed. “I’m okay. I’m keeping busy. It’s just—she had this stupid idea to make us pretend to be something. I started pretending, only now it’s not pretending and there’s no where for it to go.”  He looked at her. “You know how it is.”

“Nope. Not talking about it.” She lifted a stack of utensils, then grimaced when she saw the door open again. “Speaking of people who always seem to know when I work, she’s early today.”

Nikolas twisted on the stool, saw Courtney taking a table near the front, choosing the seat with her back to the counter. “She’s still coming in during your shifts?”

“Dinner the last few weeks, and always in my section. This keeps up, I’m going to wish I did have people.” Elizabeth grabbed the pitcher of water.

“If you’re going to dump that on her, give me warning. I want to watch—”

“Stop it, I’m not in high school anymore. But if I feel the need to trip—”

She carried the pitcher to Courtney’s table, pasted the smile on her face as she reached for the empty water cup. “You’re early today. Do you still want your usual?”

“No, no, I want something lighter for lunch. You better pour two—” Courtney’s face lit up when she heard the door jingle behind her. Elizabeth straightened, then turned to look at Jason, standing less than two feet from her.

Because of course it was Jason.

Jason stared at Elizabeth for a long minute, her eyes wide, fingers gripping the handle of the plastic pitcher of water, before looking at Courtney who seemed preoccupied with a menu that hadn’t changed since Ruby had started running the place.

“You’re right on time. I love how punctual you are. I was just telling Elizabeth there’d be two of us, so—” Courtney looked at Elizabeth, her brows lifted expectantly.

Elizabeth squinted slightly, the water pitcher twitching just slightly in her  hand, and Jason could almost see her thinking if it was worth the effort. Then she smiled, one of her broad fake ones.

“Sure. No problem. Let me get your water, and then I’ll take your orders.” She flipped over the cup at the other place setting, filled it. “Courtney doesn’t want her usual, so I’ll come back when you’re ready—”

“I’m ready.” Courtney handed her the menu. “Just the fruit salad. You know, I’ve got to watch my weight.”

“Yeah,” Elizabeth said sourly. “Wouldn’t want the wedding dress to split the wrong way when you’re walking down the aisle. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She headed behind the counter where Nikolas was watching them.

Jason sat down, glared hard at Courtney who just stared at him. “You knew she’d be here.”

“She’s always here,” Courtney said, avoiding his eyes, ripping off the end of her straw. “What’s your point?”

“You knew she’d be here so you made me come here—”

“I made you come here—”

“And I told you not to talk about—”

“I didn’t,” Courtney bit out. “That was your little—” She pressed her lips together, carefully arranged the utensils, her fingers slightly shaking. “You can’t even be in the same room with her, can you? I—”

“Stop talking,” Jason said flatly when Elizabeth approached, her order pad in hand. “I’m not having anything,” he said.

“Jason—”

“I have to get back to work soon. Change of plans. Sorry.”

Courtney glared at him, then looked at Elizabeth. “Then you might as well do the usual. And I’ll take it to go.”

“Sounds great.” Elizabeth shoved the order pad in her apron and stalked back to the counter.

“I forgave you, and this is how you treat me—” Courtney demanded.

“Did you?” Jason asked, leaning in. “Did you forgive me? Because this—” He gestured to the table between them. “Staging this? This isn’t someone who’s forgiven anything. And I didn’t—” He stopped himself before he said something he couldn’t take back.

Courtney’s lip quivered. “Didn’t what? No. Finish it. Say what you want to say.”

“What did you think was going to happen, Courtney? I’d show up, and she’d look miserable, and maybe you’d shove the ring in her face again—”

“Defending her. Of course. She gets to come out of this smelling like roses. You know, Carly always told me—”

Jason’s hand hit the table harder than he meant, and she jumped. The table behind them looked over with curiosity, but Jason didn’t care. “Do you ever talk about anything else?” he demanded.

Courtney’s eyes were wide and the hurt in them was genuine. He exhaled slowly, sat back. He hated every inch of this. Every minute he was in this room, in this situation. Was this what being happy was supposed to look like? Is this who he wanted to be?

“Oh my God!”

The shriek came from behind the counter, from a familiar voice, and Jason was on his feet, halfway across the diner before he even realized what he was doing. Elizabeth was on the phone, tears on her cheeks, but she was smiling.

“Oh my God! You’re kidding? Em, that’s—Oh, wait, wait—Jason’s here. Do you—” She held out the phone to him, her eyes shining. “She has the best news and you should get to hear it from her?”

Jason came around the counter, plucked the phone from Elizabeth’s hands. “Em?”

“Jason, hey! I’m sorry. I’d do this in person but you know I can’t be around crowds. Not yet anyway. But I just found out—I’m in remission!”

Remission. Was there a better word in the English language? “That’s amazing, Emily. The best news I’ve had all day.”

“I have to go, Mom’s here. I wanted you and Elizabeth to be the first to know, and aren’t I lucky to find you in the same place.”

Jason shook his head, but hung up the phone, looked over to see Elizabeth clinging to a relieved Nikolas. She was crying, but laughing, and he just wanted to be the one holding her. The one celebrating with her.

But he’d made that impossible. He’d done something unforgiveable, something unbelievably stupid, and he didn’t even know if he could take it back, if he could fix it.

Elizabeth pulled away from Nikolas, swiping the tears from her face. She just beamed at Jason. “This is literally the best thing that’s happened to me in weeks—remission! Can you believe it? Just a month ago—” She broke off as their eyes met. “A month ago, it was all so different, you know?”

“Yeah, I know.” He looked across the diner. Courtney had stood up, was glaring at them, and the rest of the diners were just as interested. “You’d better cancel that order. We’re not staying.”

“O-Okay—”

“And I’m sorry. For all of it. For everything. Just—I’m sorry.”

Jason returned to the table, leaving Elizabeth and Nikolas behind him. “We’re leaving—”

“But—” She lifted her chin. “You have no right to act like wronged party,” she hissed. “I’m the one that got cheated on—”

“You’re right,” Jason said simply. He picked up her purse, put in her hands, and took her by the elbow. He led her into the courtyard, and she was too shocked to protest until they were outside. “I made promises to you, and I broke them. And you forgave me. But I never asked you to. That’s what I was going to say inside. I didn’t ask to be forgiven. Because I’m not sorry.”

Comments

  • Yes Jason! Tell it like it is! I hope Nik spills the beans to Jason what Ric is putting Elizabeth through. Poor Nik. He just wants to be with Emily. It’s been a whole month, you say? How ya feeling there, Elizabeth?

    According to Beth on April 29, 2024
  • I just love being in Jason’s head for his. It feels like a fun change of pace for him to be the one conflicted about his life and the promises he’s made and what he wants to do with them.

    According to Laura on April 29, 2024
  • Wooot! That last sentence, hahahahahahaha! Burnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

    According to Jill on April 29, 2024
  • I am so happy for Em. Go Jason maybe Courtney will buy a clue. I’m afraid Courtney will go to Ric and make things harder on Elizabeth getting a divorce.

    According to Carla P on April 29, 2024
  • I am so happy that Emily is in remission. I hope someone tells Jason that Ric is harassing Liz. I want Liz to move when she finds out she is with child.

    According to Shelly Samuel on April 29, 2024
  • I love Jason’s outbursts.

    According to Melinda on April 29, 2024
  • Yes! Jason is cluing in to Courtney manipulative streak and not letting her stomp all over him. I wonder how long it will be before she tries to sic Carly on him. Great chapter.

    According to nanci on April 29, 2024
  • Is Courtney the one telling Ric about Elizabeth’s shift changes?

    According to Golden Girl on April 29, 2024
  • This is a great story…it’s not gone in the direction I expected at all so far.

    According to Kristina on April 29, 2024
  • What an ending!! I love when Jason starts to think for himself. Courtney’s manipulations just bit her on the butt. He’s really rethinking everything. More drama ahead. I can’t stand Ric or Courtney.

    According to arcoiris0502 on April 29, 2024
  • Oh, the drama! So, so good!!

    According to Shawna on April 29, 2024
  • Dear Jason. Step 1: Dump Skipper.

    According to Michelle on April 30, 2024
  • My far my favorite chapter!!

    According to Tammy on April 30, 2024
  • That was great finally Jason is almost wide awake, of course Courtney will go straight to CarSon and Sonny will go off the rails.
    So happy about Em.
    Someone needs to handle Ric Nic should do it and blame it on Helena, get her favorite knife and let her go to jail. Two birds with one stone

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on April 30, 2024