Flash Fiction: Hits Different – Part 22

This entry is part 22 of 32 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

The days rolled past, blurring together without much difference. There were the work shifts — usually together, but sometimes Jason found himself on the closing shift while Elizabeth worked the opening or happy hour. There were the bike rides which were his favorite way to end the day. No matter how late they finished at work or how late he came home from closing, she was always up to head up to the cliff roads overlooking the lake.

Jason didn’t just spend time with Elizabeth or work at the bar. He took her suggestion to ask Sonny about the gym he ran downtime, and he found himself learning how to box, taking a few rounds in the ring with some of the guys.

And she was still working her way down a list of hobbies for them to try — he was hoping to get her to add bungee jumping or sky diving. They both looked fun, but so far Elizabeth didn’t seem so interested, and Sonny had just snorted and walked away. Maybe that could be something he’d do on his own.

It was almost a week before he thought about the court case again, and only because Justus came in during the lull between happy hour and the later drinkers. Jason grimaced at the sight of his lawyer—he mostly wanted to ignore that whole other side of his life. The Quartermaines had backed off on Elizabeth’s eviction papers, and he hadn’t been thrown out of his place of work or living in almost a month.

But Justus was there to remind him that there was still a battle be waged.

“Hey.” Justus set the briefcase on the bar, shot him an easy smile as he slid onto the bar stool. “Elizabeth around?”

“In the back with Mike. You want me to get her?”

“No, that’s okay. We got a hearing set in probate court next month — Elizabeth and I will have to get together to handle her petition to be appointed co-conservator—I hate it, too,” he said when Jason just scowled. “But if we win, she can turn around and ask the court to dismiss the whole thing. It’s the cleanest way out of this—unless we can get the Quartermaines to back down another way.”

“Do you have a way?” Jason wanted to know. “Because if you do—”

“Outside blowing this up in the press, no. But I get it, Elizabeth doesn’t want that. And after the hearing in family court, I don’t blame her. The judge might not care about your intentions before the accident, but I just imagine the tabloids sinking their teeth into it.” Justus paused. “On that topic—”

“I don’t care what the truth is,” Jason cut in. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever stupid thing I was going to do or not do, it didn’t happen. And I don’t remember, so just drop it—”

“For what it’s worth, I talked to Ned. You were closer to him than anyone else in the family at the time,” Justus added. “And he categorically denied that you would have ever planned something like that. And if you had, Monica wouldn’t be the first person you’d go to. He thinks he would have known.”

“I said it doesn’t matter—”

“To you. And that’s fine. But maybe it does to Elizabeth. She put a lot on the line to fight the divorce, Jason. I think she deserves to know if her husband was willing to fight that hard for her—”

“Even if he wasn’t, I am. So, like I said—”

“Is it really that simple for you?” Justus asked, cocking his head. “That’s not your life, so nothing about it matters. No one and nothing that existed before you woke up, it’s just—” He made a gesture with his hand. “It just—poofs! Like Magic. Disappears?”

Jason frowned. “What do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing, I just—” Justus shook his head, backed away from the bar. “Tell Elizabeth to give me a call. We need to get together on the presentation to the judge—”

“You think it matters to Elizabeth what he was planning?” Jason said. Justus hesitated. “That’s what you’re saying. It matters to her. Because she doesn’t see us as different people.”

“You’re not different,” Justus said simply. “Physically, you’re the same. Maybe it helps you to think of the man you used to be as a separate person, and I can sort of understand that. But that doesn’t obligate everyone around you to accept that. The Quartermaines are what they are — a ruthless, take no mercy family that drove AJ to drink, you to overachieve, and your sister to run as far away as she could get. Not wanting to be part of that? I respect it. I don’t always know that I want to be part of that legacy either. But you weren’t a bad guy, Jason. There’s no reason to throw everything you used to be away. No, I don’t think Elizabeth has entirely accepted that you aren’t the same. Maybe she wants to. Maybe you need her to. But she’s not the kind of woman who throws that kind of relationship away so easily.”

Long after Justus had left, Jason was considering what his parting words. Did it ultimately matter what had happened before the accident? Was Justus right? Was Elizabeth owed some sort of closure?

And what did it mean for Jason to have rejected so many pieces of who he’d been before, but to have ended up mostly living the same life in a lot of ways. He lived in the same apartment with the same woman. He carried the same name. And the Quartermaines were still controlling his life.

“I hate tax season,” Sonny muttered, emerging from the back offices. “I need a bourbon. Top shelf.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Next year, Luke’s going to tell at the accountants.”

“I thought you didn’t want anyone else messing with your money.” Jason set the tumbler of dark liquid in front of Sonny. “Isn’t that what you said?”

“I hate that you listen.” Sonny drank half the glass in one quick gulp. “Slow night. Elizabeth in the kitchen?”

“Yeah. Something about menus and drink specials.” Jason grimaced, glancing towards the back of the bar, where a pair of doors led to the kitchen. “You know about the divorce hearing, right? Elizabeth tells Luke everything, and he—”

“Tells me. Yeah. The Quartermaines launched another one of their sneak attacks. Lousy bastards. You might have been a wussy mama’s boy, Jason, but you weren’t the kind of the guy who files for divorce without telling your wife.” Sonny sipped the bourbon. “Why?”

Jason considered his next words, unsure how to articulate what was bothering him. “Do you think the truth matters?”

“The truth?” Sonny echoed. He squinted. “Depends on who you ask. Sure, the truth matters. They’re using this asinine story to get their way in court. You disprove it, you make them look worse. Hard to do, all things considered. But it might be interesting to embarrass them in court.”

He hadn’t thought of that angle—that might be enough of a reason to look into it. “What about Elizabeth?” he asked. “She says it doesn’t—” He paused. “No. She said it shouldn’t matter.” Which meant that it did. She wanted to know the truth. Why? “I think sometimes I made a mistake coming to work here,” he said, saying the words before he’d even considered them.

Sonny set the tumbler down, his dark eyes curious. “Because you hate the job? Or everything that happened because of it? Because maybe if you leave town, the Quartermaines keep moving forward. They strip Elizabeth of everything she cared about. Her home. Her marriage. Hell, her name. They weren’t going to let her keep that, even though it’s on her daughter’s headstone.” Sonny leaned back, lifted his brows. “But you know, Alan and Edward probably don’t care so much about you then. You could have left. Gotten a job. Started over for real.”

And never known about Elizabeth. Or Cady. That sat wrong with him. He didn’t want to be told things about his life before — that still didn’t sit well with him, but it was getting easier. Maybe because Jason had more to call his own, and everything in his head wasn’t knowledge planted by someone else.

And maybe it’d  be okay if he’d never known about Elizabeth. Maybe.

But to never know about a child that belonged to him? One that he’d loved and mourned—that didn’t feel right.

“Or maybe you think coming to work here and getting to know Elizabeth is a mistake.” Sonny waited for Jason to look at him. “You having second thoughts about going forward with that?”

“No. Maybe. I don’t know.” Jason hesitated. “Most of the time, no.”

“Well, then, that’s a good answer. If you’re only thinking it’s a mistake when your lawyer is around reminding you of the awful family you’re from, then that’s fine. Eventually, you’ll be done with the Quartermaines. And you and Elizabeth will either figure things out or move on. Luke thinks it was all a mistake, by the way,” Sonny said, and Jason frowned. “He’s protective of her, you know that. He thinks you’re going to break Elizabeth’s heart again.”

“I—” Jason furrowed his brow. “What do you think?”

“I think,” Sonny said carefully, “that Elizabeth’s an adult, and so are you. And no one gets out of this life without a few scars. There’s a reason you found each other again. And if you’re thinking it’s wrapped up in the fact you were her husband and she loved you before, that only explains her choices. What about yours? You could have gone after any woman. You picked her. Doesn’t that matter?”

And he’d had a chance to walk away from her, Jason remembered. She’d asked him to leave her alone, to stay away. And he hadn’t done it. He’d pushed his way back in. Sonny was right. There was a reason for that.

“You’re right. Thanks.”

“Just be honest with her, that’s all I ask. And be honest with yourself. That’s all you owe anyone.” Sonny slid the tumbler across the bar. “Now. Pour me another one and why don’t you and I discuss some ideas for making the Quartermaines miserable for what they’ve been putting you through.”

Elizabeth slid the schedule across the bar to Luke. “Here’s next week. Lemme know if you have any problems with it—” She walked away from him to take the order from a regular at the end of the bar, got busy with a few others.

By the time she came back to Luke, Jason had joined him, filling a tray of beer orders for one of the floor waitresses.

“Schedule looks good, but, uh, I see you put both of you on there for April 15.” Luke lifted his brows. “You planning to work on your anniversary?”

Jason frowned. “What?”

“April 15,” Elizabeth said, shooting Luke an irritated look. “That’s, um, one year. Since…that’s the day—”

“Your wedding anniversary,” Luke finished, lighting his cigar, then puffing a few times to get it started. “You not doing a date night?”

“It’s not—” She pursed her lips. “It’s in the middle of the week for one thing, and for another—” She glanced at Jason who was just looking at her. “I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel like an anniversary. Besides, I put us on for the closing shift—”

“Yeah, well, I’m taking you off.” Luke reached for a marker they kept behind the bar, drew lines through their names. “How’s it gonna look in court if you don’t do something on your anniversary?”

Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “I don’t really want to do anything just for the court, Luke. It’s stupid. And I had a reason for the closing shift…” She looked at Jason. “I was  going to talk to you after work. Um, I was thinking maybe we could…” Her voice trembled just a bit, but she was able to finish her sentence. “I was thinking that it was time to clean out the second bedroom.”

Luke lowered the cigar to the ashtray on the bar, his blue eyes suddenly sober. “You don’t have to do a damn thing you don’t want to.”

“We don’t have to—” Jason said at the same time, and the two men traded looks, and she knew Jason was thinking of the day he’d come to the apartment a month earlier and she hadn’t even been able to look inside.

“I know. I just…I think it’s time. To try,” Elizabeth added. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it. But I…haven’t gone in her room since…” The last time Cady had woke from her nap. Elizabeth had changed her daughter, tucked her in a car seat, and left. “It’s been five months—”

“I don’t care if it takes five years—”

Elizabeth covered Luke’s hand. “I’m ready. And Jason asked a few weeks ago to see more of her pictures. If you still want to—” she said, looking back to him. “Maybe you don’t.”

“I do,” Jason said, “but I told you that I didn’t want to put you though that.”

“I think it’s time. There’s…there’s things we could donate, you know? And maybe some things I’d like to pack away. And her pictures. Maybe I could put them back in the rest of the apartment.” Maybe. Elizabeth smiled, though it felt forced. “So I thought, well, that day is as good as any other.”

“Yeah, all right. But you take the whole day, honey. You might need it.”

“Yeah, okay.” She disappeared down the other end of the bar, leaving Luke to watch over her pensively.

“You keep an eye on her,” Luke told Jason. “I don’t know if she said anything about all of that, but when she says she hasn’t gone in the room—”

“She never even looks at the door,” Jason finished quietly. “I know. There’s not a trace of Cady in the rest of the apartment. It’s all in there. I’ll be there. But if she thinks she’s ready, I’m not going to tell her differently.”

“Yeah, all right. Maybe she is. But I don’t know how you ever get ready for a damn thing like that.” Luke rubbed the side of his face, reached for his cigar. “Sometimes I blame you,” he murmured, and Jason jerked his head to look at the bar owner. “You don’t call that night, she doesn’t leave that minute. She’s five minutes later, and that car never hits her. And maybe it all goes differently. Sometimes I blame you,” Luke repeated. “Because I need somewhere to put it, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, but—”

“It’s the kind of thing that makes you stop believing in a higher power,” Luke muttered, sliding off the stool. “What kind of God does that to a family? Any of this?”

And Jason didn’t have answer for that.


  • Really good update. I love that Luke is so protective of Elizabeth and I think it important that Jason hear some of these things. Not everyone can compartmentalize their like he can. It will be interesting to see what Jason and Sonny come up with.

    According to nanci on February 21, 2024
  • Just don’t let Jason go to work for Sonny. But wouldn’t mind them giving the Quatermaines hell.

    According to leasmom on February 21, 2024
  • You have me crying for what they are going through.

    According to Shelly Samuel on February 22, 2024
  • I hope Sonny and Jason can come up with something to do to the Quartermaine’s. I’m glad Justin told Jason that Ned said Jason would never do that to Elizabeth.

    According to Carla P on February 22, 2024
  • This was such a good chapter. They’re moving on slowly but there’s still so much healing to do. I know that they will be together but I worry about them. I need to quit thinking of them as real people. Lol

    I can’t wait for Steve’s return. I’m excited about all of the Liason plans.

    According to arcoiris0502 on February 22, 2024
  • loved it.
    I like that Jason is talking to other people and getting different perspectives on the whole issue. I’m finding Sonny humorous and Luke as the dark guy which works with this. I hope Justus and Ned are working every angle.
    I hope they get the Qs to back off
    This is a horrible thought but I keep expecting Carly to pop up like a demon in a nightmare.

    According to PAMELA HEDSTROM on February 22, 2024
  • You’re killing me with this story. The feels and emotions!

    According to Angela on February 23, 2024