Written in 65 minutes.
Run fast, nowhere to hide
Her mother was probably the last person Sam wanted to see right now, but she forced herself to smile as she let Alexis into the penthouse. “I know. I’ve been avoiding your calls.”
“I would have come over yesterday,” Alexis said, “when I heard what happened, but I thought maybe you needed some space.” She looked around the penthouse. “Jason isn’t here?”
“No.” Sam closed the door, rested her forehead against it. “He left. Yesterday. He came in after being out all night at the hospital, packed a bag, and left. I haven’t heard from him.”
Her mother said nothing, so Sam turned to look at her, a bit suspicious. “You’re not going to tell me I’m better off?”
“I made a mistake last year,” Alexis said gently. “I was just—I was so scared, Sam. I’d just found out, and I was terrified I’d lose you—but I never should have pushed Jason when he was already struggling—”
“I wish I could blame you. It’d be easy. I blamed you for everything else wrong in my life.” Sam sighed, wandered over to the sofa. “Blamed you for my daughter’s death, even though placental abruption is often fatal. Especially when it comes without warning. Blamed you for Danny’s death—”
“Blamed you for Manny, too.” Sam sat on the edge of the sofa, her hands fisted in the cushions next to her, staring blindly at the coffee table. “And I blamed you for Jason leaving. So I decided to hurt you both.” She closed her eyes. “You knew that, didn’t you? That it wasn’t spur of the moment. I wanted to hurt you, Mom.”
“I know.” Alexis sat in the chair next to the sofa, and waited for Sam to look at her. “Did it make you feel better?”
“Do you want the truth?” Sam asked.
“It did. It felt good. For about an hour.” Sam’s smile was wistful now as she looked away, staring again at the coffee table. “And then the regret set in. Because the only way for it to work as revenge would be to make sure you knew. That Jason knew. So I got up and went to tell him. I got all the way to the Towers, to the penthouse. Up all those stairs—and I couldn’t do it.” Her voice shook. “I knew it would hurt him so much. And then I though about you. And Kristina and Molly. And how it would hurt everyone.” She swiped at her tears. “I wish I’d let that matter before I did it.”
Sam took a deep breath. “You pushed Jason into leaving me last year, Mom, but you didn’t hold a gun to his head. He chose to do it. And he chose to keep pushing me away until I was angry enough to lash out. You were right, by the way. About what I was letting it turn me into. I was nothing without Jason. No one. And now—” She waited a moment. “He found out last night about the baby. He didn’t know the whole time.”
“I’ve been sitting here, angry at myself because I didn’t handle it well. I—I pushed at him, and I definitely jumped down his throat because he spent the night at the hospital with Elizabeth. I was telling myself that if I had just let him breathe, if I’d let him go to sleep or take a minute, he’d still be here.” Sam looked at Alexis. “I can’t have children because of what Manny did to me. And Manny was aiming for Jason when he shot me. It’s not Jason’s fault. Not really. I took the risk. But I was arrogant. I thought I could handle whatever this life threw at me. But I can’t have children. Ever. That’s done for me.”
“I’m sorry,” Alexis said. “I don’t know what else to say—”
Sam swiped at stray tear. “I could make him feel bad, you know. I could have used this to keep him with me. Make him feel guilty for having a child with another woman when I can’t. I spent all day yesterday trying to think of how to do it.” She shoved herself off the sofa, went over to the terrace doors, folding her arms around her torso. “I could still maybe pull it off. If I play it right. I know how to do it. I managed to seduce your husband in about six weeks. I could get Jason back.” She looked at Alexis. “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize.” Alexis rose and crossed the room, her fingertips trailing over the green felt of the pool table. “I know what happened and why. It’s my choice to forgive you. I’ve made it.”
“I don’t deserve it, but thanks.” Sam closed her eyes. “I could get Jason back,” she repeated. “And there’s such a big part of me that wants it. Because I liked who I was when we were together. I liked that he made me feel strong and capable. I think he was the only man I’ve ever been with who came close to knowing who I really am. And he loved me anyway. For a little while.”
She scratched her arm absently as her mother remained silent behind her. “But Jason doesn’t love me anymore. It would end in tears and anger and we’d hate each other if we kept clinging to whatever this was. He’d see the pieces of me I’ve locked away—and he’d lose what little respect or warmth he has for me.” She exhaled in a rush of air. “Despite that, I’m still tempted.”
“You could do all of that,” Alexis said, “or you could pack your things and come home to me and your sisters. And we’ll figure out what’s next together.”
“You’d still want me in your home?” Sam wanted to know. “After everything I’ve done. After what I’ve said today?”
“Yes, I do. You need to be around people who love you.” Alexis tipped her head. “And I think we can both agree that I’ve got some sense of those pieces you’re afraid Jason will see. And I love you, anyway. So, will you try to grab a few more months with Jason or will you come home with me?”
Just you and me
Elizabeth peeked through the window and sighed when she saw Lucky standing on her grandmother’s porch. She rested a hand on her belly, felt the reassuring kick of the baby. Then looked at her grandmother. “I don’t know if I want to answer it.”
“I’ll be right here,” Audrey promised. “Or I can tell him to go away.” She rose and crossed to Elizabeth even as Lucky rang the bell a second time. “You said you were sorry that he found out the way he did. Maybe there’s a chance—”
“Not for reconciliation,” Audrey said hastily. “But closure.”
Elizabeth sighed, and went to open the door. Lucky blinked in surprise, nearly dropping the manila envelope he held. “Lucky.”
“Uh. Hey. Hi. I—” He cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to just show up like this, but I thought maybe we could talk. For a minute.”
“Yeah, sure. Come in.” Elizabeth stepped aside, and when he entered, she closed the door. “How are you?”
“Fine, I guess. Staying with Nikolas for a few days just to keep my head on straight.” He nodded. “Mrs. Hardy.”
“Lucky.” Audrey looked at Elizabeth who nodded. “I’ll go check on Cameron. He’s napping upstairs.”
When her grandmother had disappeared up the stairs, Lucky looked at Elizabeth. “How are you feeling? I, uh, know you were in the hospital overnight—”
“I’m good. Kelly was just worried about the cramping I had while we were held hostage. And my blood pressure. She’s got me on light rest.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “I’m not sorry that the truth is out there,” she said, “but I wish it hadn’t been that way. It was so public and I know that’s been hard—”
“It was a bad night.” Lucky stared down at the envelope in his hands. “You were tired. Dehydrated. I’m angry at you,” he confessed. “So angry that I almost can’t breathe.”
Elizabeth flinched, cleared her throat. “I know—”
“But I’m angrier at myself.” He raised his eyes, met hers. “Before I got hurt, we were so good. You, me, and Cam. We were a family. You were worried about the pain meds from the start. I know that. I couldn’t see it. I didn’t think of myself as being weak.”
“I wanted to be angry that you’d had an affair—I wanted to see it as proof that I’d been right all along, but—” He swallowed hard. “I think maybe that’s just me looking for someone else to blame. I thought it was Patrick, but I was wrong—”
“It was one night,” Elizabeth said. “The blackout. After I found out about Maxie.” She folded her arms. “I was planning to leave you, but then I came home and you were going to a meeting. You wanted to get clean. And I wanted to believe in you. In us.”
Lucky nodded slowly. “Okay. Okay. I can—I can be okay with that. Um—” He looked away. “I don’t really know what to do with any of this. I’m angry because you lied, but I know you had reasons. But it doesn’t really stop me from hating you. I don’t want to, but—” He held up the envelope. “Our divorce is almost final. I was going to bring these to dinner to tear up. So we could try again. I was just going to throw them out, but…” He handed it to her. “I signed them. I know that doesn’t matter because the divorce will be final anyway, but I didn’t sign them before. I made you go through the court. To give us more time. To give me more time to convince you to forgive me.”
Elizabeth held the papers against her chest. “I’m sorry,” she said. “That it ended this way. I loved you so much, Lucky. I wanted so much more for us.”
“Yeah. Me, too.” He slid his hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels. “I wanted—I wanted you to know that I love Cam. That I always will. But I’m angry at you,” he repeated. “So maybe we just walk away. You’re gonna have this baby, and Jason—” He closed his eyes.
“No. You’ll have this baby, and Jason will be there. And he’s—he’s an okay guy. I mean, I liked him just fine when we were kids. And he’s a good father. Maybe it’ll be easier for you if I’m out of the picture.”
“What about you?” Elizabeth asked. “Cam loves you—”
“He’s young,” Lucky said, but he looked away, swallowing hard. “And being a good father isn’t always about holding on. It’s about knowing when to walk. I’m angry at you,” he said once again, and this time when he looked at her, she saw the fury he’d been hiding. The flare of his nostrils. The tension in his shoulders. “Right now, I’m keeping it together because we’ve been through hell. And you’re pregnant. And because I can remember that this wasn’t some sort of deliberate plan. But I think it’s better for you and me if this is the end. Because I can’t promise I’ll always feel that way. When you have that baby, and I remember it was supposed to be mine—” Lucky’s jaw clenched. “We’re done now. The divorce will be final. We both walk away with what we came with.”
He strode past her, yanked open the door, and left. Elizabeth looked after him, her eyes stinging with tears. “Goodbye,” she said softly. She felt the baby kick again, and reminded herself that Lucky had a right to his anger, and he had a right to walk away. He’d never adopted Cameron and hadn’t really sought him out after Elizabeth had moved out, but—
Oh, it hurt to know that her little boy was losing the only daddy he’d ever known. Lucky had just assumed Jason would step in, and Elizabeth knew he was right—but it didn’t make it right. It didn’t make it okay that Lucky could be Cameron’s father for over two years and then walk away because of her mistake, assuming another man would pick up his responsibilities.
As much as Lucky had railed against his father, he wasn’t much better than Luke who had walked out on his daughter when Laura hadn’t quite measured up.
This is the last time I’m asking you this
Jason picked up the note that Sam had left on the desk, staring at the contents, trying to digest it. He’d had a call from the front desk that Sam had left with her mother—and that there had been suitcases.
He’d decided to venture back to the penthouse to find out—and sure enough—Sam’s dresser and closet had been cleared out. She was gone.
I hope whatever you’re looking for makes you happy. You were kind to me when you didn’t have to be, and you took care of me when I was nothing more than the bitch ruining your best friend’s marriage. I hope one day we can both remember the good we brought to each other.
It was a generous note, one he certainly didn’t deserve after the way he’d acted the day before. After he’d finally slept for more than two hours, this morning, he’d woken up with a fair bit of embarrassment and regret. Not that he and Sam had broken up — it had been overdue, but he wished it had been handled better.
And then he’d gone to Elizabeth the news of the break up as if it was something that would magically change her mind about marrying him—Jason was lucky she was still talking to him—
There was a sharp knock on his door, but before Jason could even turn towards it, Carly was pushing it open. “Finally!” She rushed towards him, hugging tightly. “I’ve been looking for you for ages!”
“What did you need?” Jason asked, hugging her back, then pushing her away gently. “Is everything okay?”
“What? How can you ask me that?” Carly’s eyes were wide and she slapped his chest. “I’m here for you! I can’t believe this! She lied to us all! I always knew she was a manipulative bitch just looking to get her claws into you—as soon as she had the chance—”
Jason scowled, dropping Sam’s note on the desk. “What the hell are you talking about?” he demanded. “Are you talking about Elizabeth?”
“Of course.” Carly hissed. “You’ve forgiven her, haven’t you? Why can’t you see—”
“I’m not listening to this—”
“No! She saw her chance in that stupid elevator—and look what happened! You walked into that elevator in love with Sam and then you broke up with her! Elizabeth is using that baby and your father’s death—”
“Don’t stay another word—” Jason whirled around and stabbed a finger at Carly. “Not one more word.”
Carly closed her mouth, but the silence only lasted for a minute. “You always defend her! She lied to you! She’s just using you—”
“If she’s just using me, then why did she refuse to marry me?” Jason wanted to know, out of patience with the woman who claimed to be his best friend. “I’ve asked her more than once.”
That threw Carly and she actually stopped to think about it. He could see the wheels turning in her head, trying to make sense of it. “She refused,” she echoed.
“I asked her twice last fall,” Jason bit out. “And then three more times yesterday. So go ahead, Carly. Explain that to me. If Elizabeth’s trying to manipulate her way into my life, lying about the paternity and refusing to marry me doesn’t really play, does it?”
“If she refused to marry you, she’s dumber than I thought—” Carly furrowed her brow. “Or there’s something else she wants. She just wants you to grovel. That’s what it is. She wants you to beg her to marry you. Or do declare your undying love—”
Jason had been heading for the stairs, intending to get a shower and ignore Carly, but those words stopped him in his tracks and he turned back. “What?”
“She wants something from you, of course. No woman would be dumb enough to turn you down. Especially not Elizabeth who has been running after you since she met you,” Carly spat. “You’re not giving her what she wants. Maybe it’s money—”
What she wants. It was so simple, Jason really shouldn’t have needed Carly to point it out. “You’re right,” he said, and Carly was so stunned that she stopped in mid sentence.
“I am?” She cleared her throat. “Of course I am. So that’s why—”
“That’s why I can’t ask her to marry me again until I’m ready to give her what she wants,” Jason said. “Thank you, Carly. You’ve been a big help.” He took her by the elbow. “Now go home before you ruin it.”
“Uh, okay, but—”
Jason closed the door on her face, flipped the deadlock, and went upstairs to shower. He had to think about this before he took any more action.