Flash Fiction: Hits Different – Part 17

This entry is part 17 of 22 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 68 minutes. Went slightly over, sorry!


Monica was a woman with many regrets, and she did her best not to to dwell on them for too long. After all, what was done was done and there was no point in being mired in endless self-pity. But she had a feeling going along with the decision to keep Jason’s marriage a secret would be one regret she’d find to difficult to forget.

After attending the Easter service at Queen of Angels with the rest of the family, Monica sought out her mother-in-law, hoping Lila would be willing to share some of her boundless wisdom and strength.

Instead, she found the elderly woman fretting in the parlor, Lois seated on the sofa, reassuring her that Jason would understand and believe no one had known. After all, Ned hadn’t told her either — Monica frowned at that — Lois was always complaining about the Quartermaines and their penchant for secrecy.

Ned was near the terrace, looking out the garden pensively. He turned when Monica entered, his scowl deepening. “You know, you could have shut this down months ago.”

“I fail to see how since none of us knew what Alan and Edward were up to.” Monica lifted her chin. “I don’t agree with their methods, but their goal—”

“Oh, come on!” Lois threw up her hands, surged to her feet. “What’s it gonna take for you to see you’re wrong about that girl! Ned says she’s been Emily’s best friend for years—”

“A best friend is hardly the same thing as a spouse,” Monica retorted. “And I don’t have to justify myself to you—”

“Well, no one ever could make me understand just what the problem was—sure they were young, and maybe having a kid so quick wasn’t the plan, but they were handling it—”

“Lois.” Ned touched his wife’s shoulder. “I don’t think this is helping—”

“For months you’ve all walked around this house trying to get Jason back into this family, and all you did was push him further away! A conservatorship, Monica! It’s awful, can’t you see it?”

“I don’t know that it was the best choice, but it’s not like Jason’s been under lock and key. He wanted to leave. They let him go—”

“Made it impossible for him to keep a job or a roof over his head,” Ned said. “I’m just surprised it took Luke a month to step in.”

“Elizabeth probably wanted to wait until Jason was desperate—”

“You’ve buried a daughter, you know,” Lois broke in, and Monica stumbled to a stop, stared at the younger woman. “Dawn, right? Ned told me about her—”

“Lois—”

“No, I’m sick of tip toeing around this! We’re gonna talk about it—you buried a daughter, and so did your daughter-in-law. Why couldn’t—”

“I’m not responsible for my daughter’s death,” Monica said tightly. “That’s the difference—”

“No one seriously believes Elizabeth wanted that accident—”

“She had a responsibility to my granddaughter, and she failed. Jason saw that —”

“Monica.”

Lila’s voice was soft, but unmistakable and the trio twisted to look to look at her. “I wish you wouldn’t caste such blame on that child. She nearly died herself, and whatever blame that might be hers, surely she’s paid for it in spades. I think we can afford a little grace. She buried her child before that precious baby could even blossom.”

Monica pressed a closed fist against her abdomen, took a deep breath. “I don’t doubt Elizabeth’s grief. And it’s not for you to understand why Alan and I didn’t approve of Jason marrying Elizabeth. He’s not your son—”

“Yeah, well, the rate you’re going? He’s never going to be yours again, either.”

Monica didn’t break eye contact with her nephew’s wife. “Ned, I think it’s time you and Lois went home to the gatehouse.”

“Yeah, I think I’ve had enough of this family for a life time,” Lois bit out, stalking from the room.

“I’m sorry she brought up Dawn, Monica, but Lois isn’t wrong,” Ned said gently. “Everything we’ve done to keep Jason close has only backfired. And this stunt of Grandfather and Alan? It won’t help anything.”

“Thank you for your concern, Ned, but it won’t be necessary.”

Ned shook his head, then headed for the doorway. Monica pressed the heel of her hand to her forehead. “I’m sorry for that scene. Lois hasn’t learned to mind her tongue yet.”

“As you have?” Lila asked, arching a brow. Monica frowned at her. “I notice you haven’t quite condemned this…this legal nonsense my husband has orchestrated. That your husband has supported. I wish you could have given Elizabeth a chance. If we’d taken her in, supported her—”

“She was just smarter than Nikki,” Monica cut in sharply. “Alan was able to find her price, but Elizabeth played the long game. You don’t know everything, Lila. Jason wouldn’t have told you of the times he gave her money. The attempts he made to draw on his trust fund so she could waste more time and money at some art school—and that was before she got pregnant. She would have kept taking from him if we couldn’t stop it. And the only reason there’s even money left in that account is Alan and Edward took control away from her.”

“I think Jason had a right to make his choice—”

“And his choice led him to have brains bashed in, so he got what he wanted, didn’t he? She should have cut her losses and moved on, but she didn’t. She waited and she found a way—” Monica shook her head. “Jason saw her for who she was once, and I just have to trust he’ll do it again.”

“What does that mean?” Lila asked, but Monica was already on her way out of the room, leaving the bewildered woman alone with her worries.

Across town, on Charles Street, another disapproving family was sitting down to Easter dinner—well, Laura had decided to reserve judgment, Luke thought, but his mind was made up on the whole thing.

Elizabeth had brought Jason after a last minute call that morning, and now the pair of them were in his house, Jason hovering behind Elizabeth, clearly uncomfortable around people he didn’t know or give a damn about.  Luke hadn’t much liked the Quartermaine scion before he’d had his memories scrambled and he wasn’t growing more fond as the days passed.

It had been a mistake, he thought, to ask the kid to come work for him. To take him in and give him shelter from the meddling Quartermaines. He’d thought Elizabeth would get a shock to the system — her husband was gone. Time to give up the ghost, and let Jason fight his own battles. Cut her losses, sign the divorce papers, and move on.

But instead, Jason had pulled Elizabeth back in, asking for her help. And now they were right back where they’d been before the accident — Elizabeth doing all the work, taking all the risks, and Jason reaping the benefits.

“What is your problem?” his sister Bobbie hissed after she caught Luke glaring at Jason’s back when they moved to the dining table. “You’re making everyone uncomfortable—”

“No, I’m not, and lay off, Barbara Jean. You don’t know the situation—”

“I know that you’ve been downright rude to Jason, and Laura is going to murder you if you keep it up—” Bobbie closed her mouth when the woman in question called after them to hurry up and take their seats.

Luke took his sister’s advice to heart — his misgivings weren’t anyone else’s problems, and the last thing he wanted was Elizabeth to think he wasn’t on her side. She was free to make her own mistakes, he thought, it was a free country and all that. So he forced a more genuine smile on his face, passed the mashed potatoes, and ignored the bottom feeder taking advantage of his favorite bar manager.

“Thank you for dinner,” Elizabeth said, kissing his cheek and hugging Laura. “And for the day off. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, you do that.” Luke folded his arms, watched them head to Elizabeth’s car—Jason to the passenger side.

When their brake lights had disappeared around the corner, Laura’s smile vanished and she whacked Luke hard in the arm. “Hey!”

“What is your problem? And don’t ask what, I don’t want to play six rounds of dumb before you admit I’m right.” Laura stalked back into the house, and Luke reluctantly followed. Bobbie took one look at her sister-in-law’s expression and decided it was time to decamp.

“Well, this was a lot of fun, but Lucas and I are going to head out.”

“Yeah, tell Doc we were sorry to miss him,” Luke said. When his sister and son had left, he turned to Laura. “Look, I wasn’t that bad—”

“You don’t think Elizabeth knows you better than that? You were rude, Luke. To a guest in our home—”

“To a freeloader,” Luke muttered, heading for the kitchen. He yanked a beer out of the fridge. “I gave him a job I don’t even need to fill—”

“You needed a new bartender—”

“He’s terrible at it—”

“You asked him, Luke. You sought him out—”

“And that’s on me. He’s using her, Laura. Maybe he doesn’t know it,” Luke said. “I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt there. But they were working opposite shifts. She gave him what he needed to figure out the Q’s games, and then she was keeping her distance. Finally figuring out she’s better off without that bastard—”

“You didn’t have to like their financial arrangements—”

“He had millions of dollars in that trust—”

“Luke—”

“And now he’s living with her again. Using her to get out from under the Q’s thumb. Just like before. She was that idiot’s rebellion from his uptight, snooty family, and now she’s his ticket out of there again—”

Laura sighed, looked away, then met his eyes again. “What goes inside of a marriage is only known to the people in it. You know that, Luke. There are plenty of people who don’t think you and I should have even looked twice at each other. You think my mother was wild about you? Your sister hated me.”

“Yeah, but—”

“From the outside, sure, it looked like Jason was using Elizabeth to support him through medical school. But we don’t know why he didn’t want to use that money for more than tuition. And now, yes, it looks like he’s getting all the benefits—”

“They’re dating,” Luke said flatly. “Sonny told me that. How do you date your wife, Laura? You don’t. You’re married or you’re not. He’s stringing her along—”

“Luke—”

“And when he drops her, Elizabeth is going to hit bottom again. Because he might think she’s pretty and want to sleep with her. But he doesn’t love her, Laura. And she’s never  going to see that.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I don’t want the world to fall apart again. She’s been through enough.”

“That isn’t a decision you or I get to make,” Laura said. “Just like it’s not on Alan or Monica or Edward Quartermaine. It’s for them.”

“He hurts her, I’m gonna scramble what’s left of his brains,” Luke muttered, grabbing his beer, and heading for the living room.

Jason hadn’t noticed Luke’s rudeness or caught any of the dark looks Laura had sent her husband — mostly because he thought the club owner was like that with everyone. So he didn’t think much about dinner once they’d left the house.

It was good to have something to do that wasn’t working behind the bar or taking a ride on the bike, he thought, trailing behind Elizabeth as they walked up to the apartment. It was a good thing Elizabeth had started that conversation about hobbies. He needed something to fill the extra time he had now that he wasn’t worried about where he’d work or sleep.

“Um…it’s still early,” Elizabeth said, taking the jacket from her and hanging it in the small closet by the door. “I don’t know what you want to do. Or maybe you don’t want to do anything. I could make coffee or—”

“What would you normally do?” Jason asked.

She bit her lip, shrugged. She kicked off her low heels, leaving her feet bare as she padded towards the kitchen. “Watch TV or a movie. Lately, go to sleep.” She went into the fridge, found a can of soda. “You want one?”

“I’m good. You can watch something. I don’t care.”

“I guess.” She sat on the sofa, but didn’t reach for the remote. “What would you normally do?”

“Go for a walk.” He sat at the other end of the sofa. “Find somewhere under the docks to sleep. It wasn’t so bad,” he added when she made a face. “And it was only once or twice.”

Elizabeth stood up again, smoothing her hands down the sides of the dress she wore — it reminded him of the color of butter, he thought, as she went to a shelf by the desk. There was a stereo with racks of cassette tapes. She switched it on, fiddled with a knob, filling the room with low sounds of music.

“Um, I listen to music, too. Have you? I mean, is it something you like?”

Jason listened to the song that had been switched on. It was loud, like things were crashing against each other. He winced. “Was it before?”

“Yeah. Hold on—” Elizabeth slid her fingers down one stack, took out a cassette, then popped it into the stereo. “This was one of your favorite songs—”

The loud, crashing music was replaced with a more laid back guitar.

I would like to reach out my hand I may see you,
I may tell you to run (on my way, on my way)

“It’s okay,” he said, though he didn’t know if he really thought it. What was the point of sitting and listening to music? “Uh, do we just…listen?”

She smiled now, and for the first time since they’d gotten home, some of the nerves eased. “Sometimes, yeah. But you can do other things. Like, I used to listen to certain songs to clean, or driving—sometimes you just want the right music for that. You used to study with music a lot.”

She switched something on the stereo. “This is a good radio station for that. Have you, um, tried dancing?” She glanced back at him.

“No. I don’t think I’d like it,” Jason admitted.

So don’t try to deny it, pretty baby
You’ve been down so long you can hardly see

“Well, you won’t know until you try.” Elizabeth held out a hand, and he reluctantly let her pull him to his feet. She was right — maybe he’d like it, but he’d watched people at Luke’s, and it didn’t really look like a lot of fun.

“So…what do I do?” Jason asked. He made a gesture with his hands. “Are people born knowing how to do this? Because—”

The right time to roll to me
The right time to roll to me
The right time to roll to me, ooh

 

“You just sort of—” Elizabeth reached out for his other hands, and she did something with her hips that looked right, but then he tried it and it was so wrong she almost started laughing.

“Okay, so maybe this kind of dancing isn’t right—”

“Are there others?” he asked skeptically.  The song on the radio faded, and a slower one came on. “I could do this one — it doesn’t move fast.”

Close your eyes, make a wish
And blow out the candlelight

Elizabeth glanced at the stereo with narrowed eyes, then sighed, looking back at him. “Yeah, this would be easier,” she admitted. She stepped closer to him. “You just…”

“Oh. Yeah, I’ve seen people do this.” Jason lifted his hands, set them at her hips, and she slid her arms around his neck. “It’s just…swaying.”

“Yeah, it’s easier. Especially when you don’t have any rhythm.”

For tonight is just your night

We’re gonna celebrate
All through the night

“I definitely don’t think dancing is for me,” Jason said, but maybe he could learn to like this kind. He’d seen people at the clubs, dancing like this, though usually they were closer, but remembering their conversation earlier that day—

I will do anything
Girl you need only ask

He looked down at her, but Elizabeth had looked away, staring more at his shirt, then at him. Jason frowned. “Am I doing it wrong?”

“What?” Now her eyes flew to his, startled. “No, it’s um, fine, it’s just—”

And I will not let go
‘Til you tell me to

“I like this,” Jason decided, and she smiled faintly, the blush flooding her cheeks, then down her neck, to her chest. Elizabeth bit her lip, but she didn’t look away now. Somehow, she stepped closer to him, or maybe he’d moved—

Anything that you ask
I will give you the love of your life

“I like it, too,” she confessed. Her hand slid down his chest, the other stayed around his neck, and her gaze held his, her pretty blue eyes that he wouldn’t mind looking at for the rest of the night.

And I will not let go
‘Til you tell me to

The song faded around them, and the radio moved into a faster, more upbeat song, and Elizabeth stepped back. “I think we’ve established, though, that music isn’t going to be your thing.”

“No, but the dancing is okay.” Jason still held her hand, and he raised it up, turning it over so that her palm was facing up. Her skin was soft, he thought, and he liked touching it. The feel of the smoothness against his tougher, rougher fingers.

“I should, um, change. And go to bed. I… have inventory  tomorrow,” Elizabeth managed. She leaned up, kissed him lightly, then tugged away, making her escape.


Songs: Send Me On My Way (Rusted Root), Roll To Me (Del Amitri), and I’ll Make Love To You (Boyz II Men). All songs charted on Billboard Hot 100 1995.

Comments

  • I believe that Monica and Luke didn’t understand Jason and Elizabeth’s relationship and don’t have all of the facts. Good for Lois trying to speak up and Lila doing her best to see all sides. I just feel for Elizabeth and Jason. She remembers so much of their live and he doesn’t remember any of it.

    According to arcoiris0502 on January 25, 2024
  • It’s fascinating that Jason’s family thinks Elizabeth is a gold digger while Elizabeth’s friends (ok, just Luke?) think Jason is a freeloader. You’re doing a great job at keeping the details of their relationship a mystery. I might go slightly mad waiting for this all to resolve, haha!

    According to Jill on January 25, 2024
  • Seems like a cryptic remark from Monica there about Jason finally seeing Elizabeth for what she is before his accident. Wonder what happened there…

    According to Julie on January 25, 2024
  • Thanks for the update and congrats on the new car.
    I have to wonder exactly what the Qs think Elizabeth had/has done to Jason that he saw through her at one time yet they got married and had a baby that they seem to think she killed.
    I liked Lois doing her best to get her to see they are all wrong.
    Luke is a mess, his idea backfired on him.
    Loved the music dancing scene.

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on January 25, 2024
  • It is funny how Monica thinks Liz is using Jason, and Luke thinks Jason is using Liz. I can’t wait to find out what is going to happen next.

    According to Shelly Samuel on January 25, 2024
  • I hope Luke doesn’t do anything stupid. I thought Monica was going to start to mellow until Lois started speaking. I hope Lois and Ned go to court and stand behind Jason and Elizabeth.

    According to Carla P on January 26, 2024