Flash Fiction: Hits Different – Part 19

This entry is part 19 of 22 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 60 minutes.


Sometimes he thought about who he’d been before he’d awakened in January. Not about who he’d known or where’d he’d lived, or what he did all day, but little things. Had he always disliked people so much? Did he like peppermint? He didn’t now, and it was a strange thing to have such an intense dislike for.

And had it always been so easy for him to wake up? To open his eyes and simple be fully alert?

He’d seen some drunks at Jake’s who’d slept off the booze upstairs, then slunk out the next morning with a hangover, their eyes bloodshot and red. At Kelly’s, there’d been a waitress who slept across the hall who was always rubbing her eyes when they’d bumped into each other on the way to the shared bathroom—

But Jason just opened his eyes, and was simply awake. And sometimes, he just closed his eyes and could drop into sleep within a minute or two. Was that new? Or had he always been like that?

The thoughts raced through his head briefly when he woke up in the time it took his eyes to adjust to the darkness in the room. There wasn’t any light, only the stinging moonlight filtering through the bedroom’s single window on the other side of the room. It was a small room — he hadn’t noticed that the first time he’d been in here. It fit a dresser, a double bed with a single nightstand and an armchair shoved beneath that one window. There was barely a foot of space separating it from the bed.

And Elizabeth was curled up in it, looking out the window, the moonlight washing over her face. She’d pulled on his t-shirt, and it swallowed her petite frame. He frowned, glanced at the empty space next to him. He spread his hand out—it was cold. How long had she’d been awake? And why?

She must have heard the sheets rustling as he sat up, because she turned, her face sliding back into the shadows, the moonlight on her hair now. “I’m sorry. Did I wake you?”

“No. What time is it?”

“A little after three.” She drew one knee up, tucked her other leg beneath it, then wrapped her arms around the knee. “Couldn’t sleep.”

The silence stretched between them for a long moment, and she sighed. “It’s because of my family.”

Jason furrowed his brow. “Why you can’t sleep?”

“No. I mean, probably. But…you asked me earlier. Why I take it.” Her breath was shaky now, and Jason leaned over to switch on the small lamp on the night table. It didn’t offer much light, but it was better than nothing. “And it’s because of my family.”

“Your family,” Jason repeated, not seeing or understanding the connection. “Why?”

“I told you, I think, in the beginning that the Quartermaines thought I was the wrong Webber sister. I wasn’t exaggerating. Monica asked you that.” Her lips were thin, pressed into an unhappy line. “You brought me to the Christmas party, and it was the first time they knew we’d been dating. She looked at me and then at you, and said, ‘Why couldn’t it have been Sarah?'”

Jason didn’t like that at all. “Did I defend you?”

“You would have probably,” Elizabeth murmured. She looked away again, out the window. “But he didn’t. Not the way you would have. He was used to his mother not liking anyone he dated. She hadn’t liked Keisha either. Or Karen. Not good enough for her son. No one would have been. But especially not me.” She bit her lip. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to talk about it like you’re different people. But you are in a lot of ways.”

“I think about it that way most of the time,” Jason admitted. “Or I did until I met you.”

“I’m sorry about that, you know. That coming to Luke’s made you spend so much time in a life you were trying to run away from.”

“That’s my problem, not yours.”

“Still. Anyway. I grew up hearing that. Why wasn’t I more like Steven and Sarah? The perfect children with the perfect grades, the right friends, the good behaviors, the bright future. My family wasn’t wealthy — no where near the position in Port Charles society that the Quartermaines are. Or the Barringtons, or any of the snobs that live on Harborview Drive. But we were respected. My parents were doctors. They worked with Alan and Monica. Monica was actually my dad’s first wife.”

“I—I didn’t know that.”

“It was a brief marriage. Barely worth mentioning. But it’s part of it, I guess. I was the kind of Webber you talk about in hushed tones. The black sheep. The way they talk about AJ. Except I didn’t drink and give them a reason to ship me away.” She shrugged. “I daydreamed too much, barely made it out of high school, and just generally lived down to their poor expectations. By the time I came to that Christmas party, I was used to people looking at me and being disappointed. I take it, Jason, because it’s what I’m used to.”

“You shouldn’t be.” Jason sat, his knees slightly bent and apart with his hands clasped loosely on top. “That’s what they did. After the accident. Looked at me like I was…” His mouth tightened. “They said in the hospital I was damaged. The brain injury would never fully heal. Not just my memories. Other things.”

Elizabeth looked at him, tipped her head. “Other than the aphasia?”

“Frontal lobe damage,” Jason told her. “I looked it up when I got out. That controls the way you think, how you remember things, how you interact with people. That one doctor said I wouldn’t be able to function all the way. Problem solving. I might end up like a third grader. Or worse.”

“That’s a horrible thing to say,” Elizabeth said. “Was that Tony? Dr. Jones?”

“Yeah. He seemed interested in studying me.” Jason shook his head. “They wanted me to agree. To keep coming in and being interviewed. To let doctors follow me around and chart my progress—like a lab rat,” he muttered. “I told them no. But they never stopped asking.” He cleared his throat. “Alan put the medical book in front of me because I wanted to be a doctor and he thought some part of me would still be interested. I was a medical mystery,” Jason bit out, “and I owed it to the world. I could never practice on people. But maybe I could go into research. So people could study me.”

Elizabeth rose from the chair, returned to the bed and sat on the end of the bed, facing him, her legs crossed. “So you threw the book out the window.”

“Yeah.” A half smile curved on his lips as Jason remembered. “The sound it made crashing through the glass, the way Alan looked, that felt good. But then they talked about sending me away. I left the next day.”

“You should have thrown him out the window,” Elizabeth said, and now his smile was wider. “No, that’s just awful. He’s your father! How could he—” She stopped. “Can I ask you something?”

“Yeah.”

“Just now, when I said Alan was your father, you made this face.” She mimicked it, wrinkling her nose with a look of distaste in her eyes. “You don’t consider him your father at all, do you? Even a bad one?”

“I—” Jason considered how to put it into words without making it sound crazy. Or stupid. “Logically, I know that Alan is…there’s a biological connection. He’s the father. Monica’s the mother through adoption. It’s legal. It’s science. I know that. All of them, I understand that’s how it works. But I don’t want to…claim them. I need to separate it. I don’t…I don’t know why really. Why it matters. But it does.”

“I think it’s probably a healthy way to consider the whole thing. It was probably overwhelming for you to wake up and have all these people tell you those things about a life you didn’t remember. That’s…that’s why you didn’t want me to tell you…” Elizabeth fingered the bracelet around her wrist. “Why you wanted to see her name for herself.”

“I didn’t know it until then either,” Jason told her. “Every thing I know about who I used to be, it’s something I was told. You’re our son, you’re going to be a doctor—” His lips tightened again. “All those people. Telling me that they were my cousin, or my grandfather, or my brother, my sister—I didn’t know what any of it meant. Or what to do with it. I didn’t know who I was and all these people were telling me who I was supposed to be and how to feel about them.”

He looked at her. “But that didn’t happen with you. I saw that envelope and it had our name on it. Together. Jason and Elizabeth Quartermaine. I think I knew what you were going to tell me even before you said it, and I could…I could accept it. Because it wasn’t just you. It was something real in the world. And then you gave me that photo…” Jason leaned over the bed, dug around for the jeans he’d kicked off and tugged out his wallet.

“I feel so bad shoving that at you now that I know they’re hard for you—”

“I didn’t know there was a point in trying,” Jason said. He looked at it — every piece of it familiar to him now. He no longer had to struggle to make out the lines and curves and colors. He knew the images that the shapes formed. “I didn’t know you could see facts in a photo. That you could…know them. I didn’t know until then why it was so hard with the Quartermaines. They kept showing me trophies and certificates telling me what they meant. But you didn’t do that. You gave me the photo and you let me figure it out.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose. I just…I was angry you thought I was lying. I wanted you to see the proof.”

“I did.” He touched the photo, traced the small piece that had been his daughter. His. “I don’t remember her. Or being this man. Or who we were together. But I can see that it meant something. That it was real. To the people in this photo. I didn’t…until I knew about her, I didn’t care that I didn’t remember. But now I wish I did.”

“I wish you did, too.” Elizabeth smiled wistfully. She reached for the photo. “Not so we can have this life back. It was over even before your accident. But she was such a sweet baby, and she liked you better than me. I know the books said babies don’t really know the difference that early, but she knew. She liked your voice.” She exhaled slowly, handed him the photo. “I don’t want you to be him.”

“I didn’t think you did.”

“I mean, it’s weird. And it’s complicated. And it’s why I didn’t want…” She looked around the room, then directly at him. “It’s why I wanted to wait. Or really think about what this was. Because physically, biologically, you’re the same man you were before the accident. But you’re not who you were. And you deserve someone who understands that. Who cares about you. And I wasn’t sure that was…or could be me.”

Jason frowned, not sure he liked where she was going with that. “But you kissed me tonight,” he said slowly. “And then we came in here. And it wasn’t just once—”

Her cheeks flushed, and she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “No, I know. We took a break for the pizza, but—I don’t know. You stood in the kitchen and you asked me why I didn’t get mad. Luke’s asked me that before, and I always told him I didn’t have the energy, and that’s still true. But I also didn’t…” She bit her lip. “I let the Quartermaines treat me that way because of my family. Because it’s just how I’m built. But I also…I think I was afraid that if I ever really pushed it, maybe…he’d change his mind. I never wanted him to feel like there had to be a choice. Because I wasn’t sure I’d win.”

“Well, that’s stupid,” Jason said. “Not you,” he added when she blinked.  “Him for making you feel that way. I don’t know what it feels like to be married. What it means, I guess. But I think it should start with standing up to your parents. You’re making a new family when you get married, right? Why would you do that and let the old one make the new one unhappy?”

Her mouth parted slightly. “I wasn’t…unhappy—”

“Were you happy?” he asked bluntly, and she looked away. “That’s what I thought. You don’t have to protect an idiot husband anymore. It was a choice, and he made the wrong one. I’m not gonna do that.”

“Yeah, but…” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “What if we win on Wednesday? What if the judge says, no you can’t go forward with the divorce. We’re still legally married. I know you said we could date, and I…I’ve liked that. But isn’t it ignoring the whole—” She wiggled her fingers and he saw the rings. He looked down at his hands—bare, some scars that hadn’t faded from the accident. Had he worn a ring?

“If it bothers you, we could get a divorce later,” Jason told her, and she bit her lip. “It doesn’t matter to me. I told you, I don’t really get why marriage matters. I mean, maybe there’s some legal stuff I don’t really remember. But if it’s a promise, then why bring the law into it? We can make it again later if you want. Or leave it alone. It doesn’t matter to me.”

“I don’t know. It just feels so complicated—” She yelped when Jason snagged her arm and yanked her forward, falling back at the same time so that she was draped over him. “Hey.” She sat up slightly, flattening her hands on either side of the mattress so that she was taking on some of her own weight, her hair hanging down, the tips brushing his chest.

“You’re complicating something that doesn’t need to be.” Jason slid his hands up underneath the shirt, his hands braced against her hips, cradling her body beneath his parted legs. “I like you. You like me. And this part is good. Does the rest of it really matter?”

She bit her lip, then slowly lowered herself down until she was laying against his chest, her head tucked under his chin, her fingers tracing a pattern against his skin. “You make it sound simple.”

“Because it is. This is what matters. You and me. It’s all I care about.” He stroked her back, then swept her hair out of her face. “They don’t matter anymore. Not to me. So stop letting them matter to you.”

“Well, when you put it that way.” Elizabeth leaned up, captured his mouth with hers, and pulled at his shoulders until they’d rolled and he was covering her. “I have a better idea of how to spend the rest of the night.”

Comments

  • Thanks for the update.

    According to Shelly Samuel on February 2, 2024
  • I love your surprise updates! This story is great. I am glad they are still talking things out and finding that they like each other.

    According to Golden Girl on February 2, 2024
  • You can solve problems when you take the time and effort to talk them through. Find out the likes and dislikes of a person.

    According to leasmom on February 2, 2024
  • You have NO idea how much I needed this tonight. It was perfection! From the surprise email to the last word of the chapter. But looking back on their marriage before the accident has me so curious – each chapter brings new hints. It’s like the layers of an onion and my impatient self wants to slice through and see what really happened to make Monica and Alan so sure Jason “had come to his senses” about her before and would again. And, honestly, I’m starting to wonder if part of Elizabeth’s decision not to try to see him before he came to Jake’s was because maybe part of her was ready to be out of the marriage, but her sense of duty and vows kept her in just enough to want him free.
    I can promise – if you feel the urge to write more of this before Wednesday, you will get NO complaint from me. Otherwise I cannot wait for Wednesday.

    According to LivingLiason on February 3, 2024
  • Lovely update and beautiful conversation.

    According to nanci on February 3, 2024
  • surprise yes loved this

    I love their talk and that they covered quite a bit of territory and he realizes JQ was a dumb ass at least part of the time. She needs to learn to defend herself and tell them to f–k off.

    can’t wait for the court case

    According to PAMELA HEDSTROM on February 3, 2024
  • Thank you for our surprise. I’m glad Jason and Elizabeth are talking about being married to Jason before the accident.

    According to Carla P on February 3, 2024
  • I don’t know how I got so far behind with this story. It’s so good. Is it that simple? I don’t think so. What was going on in their marriage? Was Jason not there emotionally before the accident? It’s so sad that she’s used to people looking down at her.

    According to arcoiris0502 on February 15, 2024