Written in 60 minutes.
Morgan House: Front Lawn
When she’d shown up in Port Charles nearly twenty years earlier, Elizabeth had felt completely alone in the world. Her parents barely noticed her, her siblings didn’t understand her, and the best Audrey had ever managed was gentle disapproval. Today, standing on the sidewalk outside the home where she’d raised her boys, surrounded the family she had created, it was hard to remember that brittle, rebellious girl.
She lifted her phone to zoom in on Cameron shyly sliding a wrist corsage onto Emma’s wrist, then watching as Emma twirled, showing off the soft pink dress with the sweetheart neckline. A few steps away, Portia was adjusting the spaghetti straps on Trina’s sleek purple dress while the teen sent discreet looks to Spencer, who was grimacing while his grandmother adjusted the knot on his suit.
And off to the side, just slightly apart, Carly stood with her daughter. Elizabeth’s heart had skipped a beat when Joss had stepped out of the car, her blood red dress not a far cry from another dress worn on a night like this.
No one but Elizabeth would make the connection. There were few left who remembered that dress. Audrey had passed away, Lucky might as well be in another universe, and it had been a crumpled pile of fabric when Bobbie had come to the Spencers house that night.
Elizabeth jerked to attention when Patrick bumped her shoulder. “What?”
“You’re just staring—” Patrick followed her gaze. “I feel a little bad for her,” he admitted. “I know Joss struggles to make friends, and Spencer and Trina aren’t really going together, but—”
“But,” Elizabeth murmured. She exhaled in relief as Jason approached Carly and Joss, and Joss’s plastered smile became more genuine. “Emma looks beautiful,” she told Patrick, looking back at their kids.
“Cam cleans up nice, too.” Patrick exhaled slowly. “He wrote her a song, Webber. Just for her.” He folded his arms. “I’m still not sure I want to let her out of the house, but if she has to date someone, I’m glad it’s someone like Cam. He’ll be good to her, and maybe she’ll have high standards the next guy will have to work hard to meet.”
“You never know,” Elizabeth teased. “Maybe first love will be forever this time.”
“Maybe.” He cupped his hands around his mouth. “Okay, let’s get the group photos done so we can hit the road.”
The teens complained but it was mostly good-natured, and Elizabeth was sure to encourage shots of just the girls to make sure Joss didn’t feel left out, and only Cameron and Emma took photos as a couple.
“All right, Elizabeth and I are the drop off,” Patrick said as they moved towards the cards. “And—”
“Robin and I are picking up,” Jason confirmed. He opened the door so that Emma could slide into Patrick’s backseat, along with Cameron.
“Call if you want to come home early,” Elizabeth said, her stomach twisting as Trina and Spencer argued over who was going with Elizabeth and Joss. Trina won — and went with Cameron and Emma. Joss’s eyes dimmed a little, but she got into the car anyway.
Jason watched as the two cars pulled out of the driveway, wondering if he should have gone with Elizabeth. He knew the dance was weighing on her mind — it wouldn’t have if Tom Baker hadn’t shown up all those weeks ago and brought back the nightmares.
“Maybe I should have driven Joss,” Carly said, standing at his side. He frowned at her. “She’s having a hard time. You know, Emma and Trina only tolerate her because of Cam.” She sighed. “It’s my fault.”
“They’re just kids,” Jason said, putting an arm around her shoulders. “And they get along better than when they were kids.”
“I guess. And it hasn’t been that bad this year. Not like middle school,” Carly added. “But I’m just—I feel like I set all the wrong examples for Joss. I don’t have any female friends, so she couldn’t even see what it looked like.” She forced a smile. “Maybe I should have been nicer to Elizabeth.”
“Well, yeah, but that’s for other reasons,” Jason said, and she smiled. “Joss is a good kid—”
“But she goes after what she wants and doesn’t always look to see who she’s stepping on. It’s me all over again, Jase, and I’m just worried. I don’t want her to be like me. I want her to know she’s enough, just the way she is.” She exhaled slowly. “But you’re right. It’s better than it used to be.” She flashed him a smile, then poked him in the stomach. “Congratulations, by the way. I haven’t seen you since you told me about the baby.”
“Yeah, we wanted to wait a little while before we told a lot of people,” Jason said as they walked towards the house, following Jake and Aiden in. “But she’s out of the first trimester, so the worst miscarriage risks are past us.”
“You have to tell me everything.”
Port Charles High School: Parking Lot
Elizabeth backed her car into a space so that she was facing the doors. She was only meant to do a drop off, but Joss had been so quiet in the car that Elizabeth didn’t feel right just leaving her. Instead, she was parking and watching the entrance. She didn’t want another girl with sad eyes to be broken.
There was a rapping against her passenger side, and Elizabeth smiled faintly. She unlocked the door and Patrick slid in. “Hey.”
“Hey. You, uh, wanna tell me why we’re staking out the dance?”
“Joss,” Elizabeth murmured. “I’ve been thinking so much about this dance. About Cam and Emma fighting about going — it’s brought back some memories.” She looked at him. “For me. The Valentine’s Day dance. It happened that night. I asked Lucky to go as friends, hoping he’d see me in my dress and realize it was me he wanted all along. But then my sister asked him.”
She stared straight ahead as the sky, pink and orange when they’d arrived, sank into darkness, the streetlights illuminating the parking lot. “He came over to tell me that he was going with her. Like it wasn’t a big deal.”
“Asshole,” Patrick muttered. “He had to know you weren’t asking him as friends. I mean, guys are dumb, but we’re not that dumb. If a girl asks you to do go somewhere as friends, she’s testing the waters.”
“I can’t be angry at him. He’d fantasized about Sarah for months, and had a chance finally.” Her fingers tightened around the wheel. “He went after it. But I was so embarassed and upset, I made up a date to the dance. And I didn’t go. And tonight, I watched another girl feel like she wasn’t wanted hide her misery.” Tears burned at her eyes. “I always felt out of the place. A changeling in the Webber household who didn’t fit the mold and could never meet the expectations my parents set for me.”
“It is. It absolutely is. They’re missing out on so much. Not just because I turned out just fine without them, but my boys are special, and would have made their lives so much better.” Elizabeth sighed. “I guess I was scared Joss might want to leave and walk home. Which seems silly—”
“It absolutely does not.”
“I’d never forgive myself if something happened to her. Or any of them. Not just Cam. They’re all mine. Trina has been in and out of my house since she was a kid. Her dad took such good care of me during my rape investigation. And Emma—you know how much I love her. Spencer—he’s lost both his parents and there’s so much anger he tries to hide. But Joss — she’s the one that reminds me the most of who I used to be. She’s just like her mother, too.”
“You’re comparing yourself to Carly?”
Elizabeth smirked. “That’s one of the reasons we couldn’t get along for long. Too much alike. I just got broken at an earlier age. I was selfish, petty, and spiteful. Without the rape, I would have grown up to be a self-centered, vindictive woman who couldn’t make friends—”
“I don’t believe that for a minute.”
“I never did make friends that well,” Elizabeth said. “Emily, Nikolas—they were Lucky’s friends first. Jason,” she murmured. “He was the first friend I made that was all mine. You were the second.”
Patrick reached for her hand. “Hey. Quality over quantity. And you and me, we’re platonic soul mates, you know that right? Robin’s the love of my life and it’s a miracle I get to keep her. To have more kids with her. But you kept me moving through losing her. You helped me raise Emma when I thought I’d screw it up.”
“Best friend I ever had,” Elizabeth said, turning to smile at him. “You don’t have to stay.”
“Nah, I’m with you. Joss reminds me of me, too,” Patrick said. “You’re not the only one who was a selfish teenager who didn’t make friends well. We’ll just tell Jason and Robin that we’ll take the Kelly’s drop off and they can pick up the kids there. I’m sure Laura and Portia will be relieved to have the break.”
“Let’s do that.”
Port Charles Hotel: Gymnasium
The fast beat of Little Mix slid into the slow strands of Ed Sheeran, couples began to gravitate towards one another, and Joss edged her way from the dance floor, her throat tightening as she watched Cameron draw Emma into his arms—and then Spencer hold out a hand to Trina.
And her current crush, Oscar Nero, asking Molly Bainbridge to dance. Joss wandered over to the punch table. It wasn’t like she wanted to date Cameron or Spencer — the passing crush she’d had on Cameron in grade school had mostly been because he’d always been nice to her. Probably because his mother made him.
So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
She lifted the punch to her lips, sipped it and winced at the sugary sweetness.
‘Cause honey your soul can never grow old, it’s evergreen
Baby your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
She didn’t even want a boyfriend, Joss told herself, even as she wistfully watched the other couples swaying to the music.
But baby now
Take me into your loving arms
She’d been so excited for this dance, so sure that she’d pick out this dress and that every guy would want to dance with her. She was pretty, wasn’t she? And she was trying harder to be nicer. Emma had been right — the truce with Trina made things easier.
But a truce didn’t change a decade of rivalry or erase some of the things Joss and Trina had done or said to one another. And she knew they still really didn’t like each other. And Emma and Trina were popular. People liked them.
And nobody, except for Cameron and sometimes Spencer, liked her.
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are
Finally the song changed into an upbeat Justin Timberlake, and Joss went back to the dance floor because you didn’t need a partner for these songs.
Kelly’s: Parking Lot
“Thanks for the ride,” Cameron told his mother as he held the door open for Emma. “You’re going home this time, right?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth said with a roll of her eyes. The group had been mystified to find Elizabeth and Patrick waiting for them after the dance, and Cameron had complained that maybe his mom didn’t think he was old enough to go to a dance.
So this time, Elizabeth promised — and she’d promised Jason, too, who was worried about her for other reasons. So she watched the kids head into the courtyard, then followed Patrick out of the parking lot and away from the diner.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Everyone who had joined them at Kelly’s after the dance had someone with them, Joss realized. Or maybe the other groups of kids were just evenly divided. Even Nancy Ohlendorf had a date. Joss huffed as she sat at the table. When girls who liked other girls found a date more easily than she did, that just reminded Joss that she was the problem. Not that she wasn’t happy for Nancy and Julie. She just wanted someone to sit with. To talk to.
She sipped her soda, picked at her French fries, smiling when she was supposed to. But she just wanted to go home. Her house was too far away, but her grandmother’s Brownstone wasn’t, Joss decided.
She got up from the table and went for her coat, her throat tightening when she made it all the way into the courtyard without anyone coming after her. She waited for a moment — but no one came.
They hadn’t noticed she was gone. Wasn’t that a kick in the face? She lifted right out, didn’t she?
Joss turned and headed towards Elm Street, the street quiet with only her footsteps echoing. She dragged her coat more tightly around her, tears burning at her eyes. Her phone wasn’t even vibrating. No one, not even her best friend, knew she was gone.
Your best friend should always notice, Joss thought bitterly, but Cam had been so worried about Joss—
There was a crack—and Joss stopped. Turned to look at the broken lot across the street where the sounds had come from. Then she heard footsteps. Heavy ones. She swallowed hard, straight ahead, and started to walk more quickly. Two more blocks until she got home Two more blocks.
The footsteps were closer now, and Joss was scared. What if she turned around and someone was right there—
There was a honk of a car horn, and then a car was siding to a stop. Joss stopped, recognizing it. “Aunt Liz,” she said breathlessly. “You came back.”
“I had a feeling you’d need me,” Elizabeth told her. She flipped the locks. “Get in.”
Joss yanked the door open, then took a moment to sweep her eyes around the surroundings. There was no one at all. She must have just been more nervous than she’d thought. She slid into the passenger seat, and flashed a smile at Elizabeth. “How’d you know?”
“I just did.” Elizabeth squeezed her hand. “One day, you’re going to look around and you’re going to be surrounded by so many people who love you that you’re not even going to remember tonight,” she told her. “You are a great kid, Joss, and you deserve the world.”
As Elizabeth’s car disappeared down the road, Tom stepped out from the scraggly blushes, grimacing. He’d been so close.
Then he smiled. The pretty blonde with the sad eye was special to Elizabeth, too? Well, well, well. There were just so many options to choose from.