Written in 59 minutes.
He’d known, of course, that there had to be a good reason why he’d been fired from three jobs at the docks and turned out of at least two places to stay, despite having the money to pay. He’d had help from the cousin, Ned, in getting some money from the trust fund everyone always talked about to he could pay for Kelly’s, and the paychecks could pay for Jake’s. But both woman had turned him out, and at least two of the warehouses had just stopped putting him on the schedule after the first week.
He’d just thought it was the power of the Quartermaines — he’d heard enough about the family since being awake, had seen the way the doctors at the hospital deferred to them, but it had never occurred to Jason that there was more than that.
But now, holding a piece of paperwork that didn’t make any sense, Jason saw the last two and half months in a completely different light. If he’d been legally married prior to the accident, how could someone else petition for divorce? Or—
“I don’t understand,” Jason said after a long moment. He set the paperwork down, met Elizabeth’s nervous eyes. “How does that happen? What is a conservatorship?”
“I don’t—it’s so complicated, and they didn’t really—” She bent down again to tug another folder. “I went to the law library to see if I could find the statutes they wrote in that paper, but it still didn’t make sense. I printed it because I wanted to read it. As soon as I gave that to my lawyer — the one that did the power of attorney letter, they dropped my case.” Elizabeth slid papers across the small table, but Jason just shook his head. “You don’t…believe me?”
“I—” He didn’t know what to think, so he picked it up, but the print was small and the wording was complicated. Why did they always—”
The legislature hereby finds that the needs of persons with incapacities are as diverse and complex as they are unique to the individual…The determination of incapacity shall be based on clear and convincing evidence and shall consist of a determination that a person is likely to suffer harm..
“Does this mean they went to a court and said I was…” Incapacity. Damaged. Limited. His fingers tightened around the paper. “I’m not.” Or was he? A court should have evidence? Jason had ignored doctors who told him things, but—
“I was confused when I read that because it made it sound so…” She drew her bottom lip between her teeth, then rubbed her arms. “Anyway. I was reading it, and it said you were supposed to have a representative at the court. Someone who isn’t one of the conservators, so I tried to get the records, but I was denied. It’s all under seal. I don’t know if the hearing was fair. I do know the Quartermaines have a lot of friends in high places. All I know is that Alan still have power of you as a person, with medical stuff, and Edward is over your estate. Um, the power to contract. You can’t…not legally…do anything without him.”
He set the paper down, dragged his hands through his hair. It made sense, a horrible sense, and he wondered how many people had been lying to him. How many people in that damn house had known about this? Had the grandmother, Lila, who had been so kind to him? The sister—
He had no doubts about Alan or Edward—
“It’s my fault,” Elizabeth said, drawing his attention back to her. “If I hadn’t pushed, you know. With the power of attorney. Maybe they would have been okay with cutting me out. If they’d known you’d wake up without your memories…maybe—” She stared down at the table, tracing a nick in the wood with her thumbnail. “But I did. I got a lawyer. I was just…desperate for answers, and they weren’t telling Emily or Ned anything because they thought I’d find out…and I just…I should have left it alone. But I made Edward mad. And they went to do this—”
She jerked her head at the folder he still hadn’t looked through. “The legal stuff is in all there. I didn’t…know what to do. There’s not a lot of lawyers who will take on the Quartermaines. Even though Luke and Sonny offered to loan me money — I thought about asking Ned, but what if he knows? What if he…” Her voice trembled. “They did it to you to get rid of me, you know? The first thing they did was close the bank accounts. I never touched your trust fund. At least I don’t think so. You used to put money in the account, and you were doing the bills because I was maternity leave, and then after the accident—” She shoved her hair from her face, combing her fingers through the strands. “I don’t know. I couldn’t do anything.”
Jason didn’t know what to say to any of this. It was a life he didn’t know or understand. But the trust fund — “They thought you wanted the money,” he said slowly.
“Yeah, um…I mean, there were a lot of reasons they didn’t like me. It wasn’t so bad when Emily and I were friends. At first, they thought maybe I was bad influence on her, but she kept being an honors student, so they let it go.” Elizabeth twisted a ring on her finger. “But you…you brought me a New Year’s Eve party last year and it was like I was a serial killer.” Her smile was faint. “I wasn’t good enough.”
“Why?” Jason shook his head. “What did they care?”
“Oh—” Elizabeth jerked a shoulder. “A lot of things. I’m a Webber, but I’m a shame to my family, especially if you ask my parents. I paid, like, zero attention in school, barely got to graduation. I was a waitress, and now I’m a bartender…nothing like my sister Sarah who they basically picked out for you—” She winced. “Anyway, it’s all….it just boils down to this. They think I’m a gold digger who got pregnant to trap you and get my hands on your trust fund, and their worst nightmare came true when you married me.” She smiled ruefully. “Alan offered me money to leave town, but I refused, and he’s always been angry he couldn’t get rid of me the way he did Nikki.”
“Nikki?” Jason echoed, bewildered. He’d lost track of the conversation entirely. “Who—”
“When we were still in high school, AJ was going to marry this girl. Nikki Langton. She probably was trying to get to AJ for the money, but Alan paid her to go away, and she went.” Elizabeth picked at her nails, looking away from him. “It was a little better when Cady was born. You know, Edward has his issues, but he really does love his family. He just…wants to control them, you know? He thinks he knows best. But…well, any chance of things getting better…”
Elizabeth dragged in a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to get into all of that. Especially when I can’t…I can’t prove any of it, right? And that’s what you wanted. You wanted to make up your own mind. I thought maybe if you wanted someone to read through that or you know what you’re looking for now, you could…for yourself. Decide what you want. I mean, listen, the conservatorship was a horrible thing, I thought, but since the only thing Edward’s done with it is to get rid of me, maybe you don’t mind—”
“I got fired from my job because of it,” Jason said flatly, and she looked at him, her eyes wide. “Kicked out of Jake and Kelly’s. He wanted to force me back into that house. It’s not just about you.”
“Oh. I didn’t…Emily hasn’t told me much. I didn’t want to know,” Elizabeth confessed, her cheeks flushing and her eyes averting again. “And Luke and Sonny really just said people were being pressured, though I guess I knew it was part of this. I just…I know why it started, so I was blaming myself for all of it—” She closed her eyes. “Being selfish. Just like always. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She swiped at her cheeks, brushing away the few tears that had escaped. “Well, you know everything now. Or at least you know what I know. And you have access to anything else.”
He didn’t know what he was supposed to think or feel — it was all muddled and confusing again. There was still so much else he didn’t know — and maybe plenty he didn’t want to know. And he didn’t like how he kept making her cry.
“What else is in the bag?” Jason said finally, noticing that her tote wasn’t entirely empty. “You said I had everything.”
“Oh. I didn’t know what else to bring, so—” Elizabeth pulled out the last few files. “Um…I looked in your desk at the apartment, and I don’t know. There were financial things. The taxes from last year, and you were keeping a folder for this year, though I might need that back—” Her brow furrowed. “That’s next month, isn’t it? I don’t…there are bank statements. You never threw anything out. I thought you…might want to see for yourself about the trust funds. And you have the bank now, maybe you could ask for other accounts—there’s more stuff at the apartment—” She tapped the bottom file. “And this is college stuff. Um, you went to Stanford for undergrad, and you were in PCU for med school. I don’t know if you wanted it, but it was part of the story, and I just…”
There was too much on the table. Too much history he didn’t want, and now he regretted ever hinting he wanted to find out things for himself, because she’d actually listened and now there was too much. There was a life here, proof and evidence of everything that he’d never ever remember.
Jason shoved away from the table, and a few things fell to the floor. “I didn’t ask for all of this.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth’s face drained of color and she looked down at the table. “Oh. Right. I did…it’s…more than you asked for. You just asked about the hospital, and I’m sorry—I just I didn’t want to…” Her hands were shaking as she started to shove things back into the bag. “I’m sorry. I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave anything out because people always do that and then I did too much. I just…you tell me what you want to keep and I’ll take the rest—”
“Just stop—” Jason held up his hands. “Stop. Okay? I don’t know. I don’t want any of this! I don’t know you, and I don’t know what any of this is! I don’t care how much paper you shove in front me, I’m not going to remember you!”
“I didn’t…” Elizabeth pressed her lips together, then rose to her feet. “I wasn’t trying to make you remember,” she said, though her voice seemed steadier now. And now she was looking at him. “You know, there’s no manual or instructions for how to do this, okay? Unless you have one you want to share, I’m just trying to figure this out the same way you are! You aren’t the only person whose entire life ended three months ago, okay? You don’t remember anything, fine. But I do. And I’m doing my best. You tell me when to back off, and I’ll do that. But don’t yell at me for trying to give you what I thought you wanted.”
He fisted his hands at his side. She was right, of course she was, but there was all this pressure inside, this tightness, and he just wanted to hurt someone—he wanted it to go away— “I’m telling you to back off.”
“Then I’m backing off.” She yanked her purse up. “You keep the papers. Throw them out, burn them, I don’t care—”
And then she left, slamming the door so hard that it rattled in the frame. The room was silent now, the air was gone, and all that was left was the information she’d dumped on him.
Jason exhaled slowly, then crouched down to pick up what he’d knocked from the table — the first few things he’d looked at. The marriage certificate…and the baby book. He carried the book over to the bed, and sat down, cracking open the cover again.
On the first page, there was another copy of the birth certificate, pasted inside. He stopped to read it again. Cadence Audrey Quartermaine, born September 19, 1995 to Jason Morgan Quartermaine and Elizabeth Imogene Webber. Beneath the birth certificate, someone had written birthday twins! And then Jason remembered that he was supposed to be have been born on September 19, too.
There was more information about her birth — she’d been born at General Hospital at 9:25 AM. A Tuesday. She’d been six pounds and 13 ounces. A birth announcement that didn’t make any mention of her grandparents on either side, just of her parents.
A photograph under the page that said “My First Home” and Jason stopped to study it, to make the colors and lines and shapes make sense to him. They were standing on a street in front of a building — a brick one, he realized. Elizabeth’s face was pale, clean of any makeup, and she looked tired. He held the baby in his arms. She had almost no hair, and a yellow outfit.
There was a page of with a record of accomplishments — and most of it was blank. There was something so stark about it that sat with him. Makes known likes and dislikes – from birth. Follows movements with eyes – 5 weeks.
But there was nothing written next to recognizes mother and father or laughs aloud. The following pages were blank, too. First Christmas. First Birthday. It was empty.
It was a book meant for a long-lived life, with pages for weddings and school and jobs — but they were snow white. Empty. Nothing had been written on them. And nothing ever would.
He thought about that picture of himself standing in front of a building with a baby who hadn’t lived long enough to recognize her parents or even to laugh. He didn’t know yet exactly when this baby had died, only that it had been sometime in November. And then Jason gotten into the car just after Christmas.
He’d woken up into a world with nothing in it — no memories, no recognition of anyone he was supposed to know. And maybe for the first time, Jason could see there was a silver lining in that. He didn’t remember this baby, and wouldn’t have to live with that memory.
But now there was a heaviness hanging over him. Because he didn’t remember this baby. And there was a paper that said he’d been her father. Photographs that proved he’d cared about her, about her mother.
And that mother had buried her child and lost her husband weeks later.
Jason closed the book, set it aside, and returned to the table stacked with documents and folders. She’d done too much, he thought, but she was the only person who had actually listened to him. Had heard what maybe he hadn’t understood either. That he needed to know these facts for himself —
How could he complain now because he had too many facts to digest?
Jason went to the plastic phone on the night stand. He wanted to know exactly how much the Quartermaines had known and he needed someone who could explain these legal papers to him—
And there weren’t that many people who could do both.
“Justus? Hey. Uh, you said if I ever needed anything—”
Note: I pulled my own baby book from the shelf in my office and used my own information, lol, for some of the milestones, and the page content.