Flash Fiction: Signs of Life – Part 22

Written in 62 minutes.


Morgan Penthouse: Living Room

Elizabeth gave Francis a half-hearted wave as she opened the penthouse door, leaving the guard outside. She was getting used to having someone drive her around, but it was still a bit weird knowing he was standing outside all the time, only going home when she was sure to be home for the night.

But every time she felt a bit confined, she remembered that night in her studio, staring at the clock lodged under the table, ticking down to zero, the sweat sliding down her back, waiting for the explosion—

Had that only been five days ago? The Christmas party less than two weeks earlier? Her life looked so different now. How was that possible?

She heard the click of cue balls and looked towards the pool table finding Jason standing there, the long cue in his hands, staring at her. “Oh. I didn’t see you there.”

“Are you all right?” Jason set the cue back on the table. He shoved his hands in his pockets, but didn’t approach her. That was strange, she thought, but pushed it out of her head. “Were things okay at Kelly’s?”

“Oh, yeah.” She forced a smile, going to the closet to hang up her purse and jacket. “Tips were good today.” Better to be Jason Morgan’s wife than his girlfriend, she thought, but didn’t say anything. There was something weird in the air, just hanging there invisibly, but she couldn’t really put her finger on it. “Well, Carly came in—”

“What did she say?” Jason demanded.

“Nothing.” Elizabeth shook her head. “Just came and glared at me. I don’t know what’s going on with that, but I didn’t say anything to her either. I figure with Carly, it’s usually better not to engage.”

“Usually.” Jason leaned back, sitting on the arm of the sofa. “She’s probably angry that nothing happened after she went to the PCPD.” He paused. “I have to go out later. I mean, to work. I don’t know what time I’ll be back.”

“Oh, okay.” Elizabeth folded her arms, feeling flustered. “Is, um, everything okay? I mean—” The last time he’d acted like this—the last time there had been this strange wall between them was the day he’d told her he was leaving.

Was it going back to work? Was he afraid she’d ask questions?

“I was thinking of going over to the studio for a few hours anyway,” Elizabeth said, determined not to let his odd mood discomfort her. “Um, did you get lunch or whatever—

“I have to tell you something.”

Elizabeth blinked as Jason blurted out the words. He winced as if he hadn’t meant to say anything. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong,” he assured her but she wasn’t convinced. “It’s just—Sonny and I were talking after you went to work this morning. About the PCPD.” He dragged a hand through his hair, looking away.

“Okay. Did Alexis hear something we should be worried about?”

“No. It’s good news,” Jason told her. “You’re basically off the hook. They can’t bring you in for questioning or anything else. Alexis filed a harassment complaint about Capelli, and Mac’s taking it seriously.”

“Okay,” she said, drawing out the word. That did sound like good news, but—

“And Sonny, um, pointed out—” Jason got to his feet, shoved his hands into his pockets. “He pointed out that’s why—” He exhaled slowly. “It’s why we got married,” he finished finally. “Because of what Carly knew.”

Elizabeth stared at him for a long moment. She knew that. Of course she knew that. “I know. We thought they might try use drug charges or something against me, but okay, yeah, I guess they can’t now. That’s—” She twisted the ring on her finger, feeling the metal slide across her skin. “Alexis said we’d need at least year—”

“Yeah, that was when we thought it would take long for Carly to go to the cops.”

There was a crushing weight on her chest as she focused on him. “But I’m off limits,” she said softly. “Because of the search warrant.” And that had nothing to do with her marriage. So they didn’t need to be married at all, did they?

In fact, they hadn’t needed a wedding at all. Forty-eight hours. Had their paperwork even been filed? Was it real? What was he asking? Did he want an annulment or a divorce? How did this work? Why was he telling her this?

“W-What does Sonny say?” Elizabeth asked, forcing the words out though her throat was tight. “What do we—”

“Uh, six months maybe, instead of a year,” Jason said. He cleared his throat. “He said we could just leave it alone, too, until we want to deal with it.”

“Until we want to deal with it?” Elizabeth echoed. She frowned. “I don’t—” Oh. Sonny thought they should just stay married until they broke up. Because if they got divorced now, it would be strange to continue dating. Or whatever they were doing. They hadn’t even sorted that out before the bomb in her studio and Carly’s threats.

Leave it alone. What a terrible way to phrase it. They could just drift along the way things were until Jason wanted to leave her. She didn’t even know how to wrap her mind around any of it. They’d had a deal, and she’d put it out her mind over the last few days. They were married, and she knew they’d be married at least a year. That had felt like a lifetime only days ago—an infinite amount of time to figure out what was going on between them.

They’d barely even kissed a week ago, and then they’d poured gasoline on everything with this marriage.

Now Sonny had lit it on fire.

What did she even do with this information? Was she supposed to agree to it? To be married but not married with a sort of expiration date somewhere down the line but not the same one they’d agreed to?

Jason opened his mouth, but the phone in his pocket rang. He tugged it out. “Morgan. Yeah? Okay. Yeah, I’m on my way.”

He was leaving? Now? Right now after dropping this on her? Why the hell had he even told her—

“I’m sorry,” he said, breaking into her thoughts with regret in his eyes. “Things are—I mean, it wasn’t supposed to happen until later. But it’s now—”

“It’s fine.” Elizabeth smiled at him. “Really. I’ll just go over to the studio and get some work in. I’ll, um, see you when I see you, I guess.”

“Yeah. Don’t wait up,” he advised as he went to the closet and pulled on his jacket. “I don’t—”

“I know.”

Jason hesitated at the door, his hand wrapped around the knob, unsure. Then he left.

Elizabeth closed her eyes, took a deep breath. She waited until she knew the elevator was gone. Until Jason was probably out of the building, then opened the door again to Francis. “Hey. I’m going to my studio.”

“Sure thing, Mrs. Morgan,” the guard said, straightening. “I’ll call down for the car.”

Mrs. Morgan. That wasn’t even her name yet. Not legally. And maybe it wouldn’t be. What was the point if it was going to be changed in six months? Maybe less. What if they broke up in two months?

Stop, she told herself. Just stop. It didn’t matter why Jason had decided to tell her what Sonny had said. She just had to decide what she wanted to do about it, and then move on. No use irritating herself with the little things.

Quartermaine Mansion: Nursery

Carly curled up in the rocking chair, Michael tucked in her arms, his head nestled against her shoulder, listening to her read.

There were small pockets, moments in time, when everything else fell away and Carly let herself feel happy. When it was just her and her son, she was happy. She had food to eat, a roof over her head, and Michael had everything he could ever want. She’d lied, cheated, stolen, and committed all manners of crimes, legal or otherwise to get here.

But could she hold on to it? Would AJ believe this baby was hers? Maybe. Due dates were just guesses based on the last date of the period. Babies grew at different stages—it didn’t have to be like last time.

“Mama, keep reading,” Michael murmured, his words jumbled and slurred from his half-sleep state.

“Sorry, Mr. Man,” Carly said, kissing the top of his head.

She’d seen that insipid little girl at the diner today, but she couldn’t say anything. What was left to say? What threats did Carly have left? She’d blown up the remnants of her last bridge with Jason by going after Elizabeth Webber—whatever chance she’d had at forgiveness for that night with Sonny—

She knew the best thing to do would be to listen to AJ. To put Jason and everything else about him out of her head. She didn’t need him, and he didn’t love her. He couldn’t and treat her this way. If he’d loved her even a little, why hadn’t he tried harder to be with her this last year?

But letting it go, letting Jason get away with abandoning her, letting that little girl think she’d won—

That wasn’t in Carly’s DNA. She burned for revenge, needed to get even—

She just didn’t know how. Not yet. She’d have to stew on it for a little while and let them both think they’d gotten away. That she’d given up.

They’d never see her coming.

Morgan Penthouse: Hallway

It was past midnight when Jason finally climbed the stairs, and part of him was relieved. It was late enough that he was sure Elizabeth would be asleep and he wouldn’t have to think about that disastrous conversation.

He knew he’d messed everything up—had seen the way her entire body had flinched when he’d told her about Sonny and his six month theory. The life had drained out of her eyes, the color fading her from her cheeks. He’d hurt her, and he didn’t know how to make it right.

When she’d smiled at him at the end, and it had been one of the smiles he’d seen her give everyone else last fall — hoping they’d believe it and think she was all right— it had slammed into him like a punch to gut. He couldn’t stand thinking he was someone she thought she had to pretend with.

But how did he fix it? Could it even be repaired? Had he ruined everything? She’d probably sat in the studio which had nearly been blown up because him and maybe she’d decided Sonny had done her a favor, pointing out they could end all of this sooner.

He knew from the guard on the door that she was here. The guard was on duty until he came home so she was never alone, but maybe she already given up and was in another bedroom—

Jason didn’t realize how much he’d expected that until he reached the master bedroom and saw light filtering out from beneath the door. She was still awake? That couldn’t be good. Could it?

He twisted the knob, then exhaled in relief. The light at the side of the bed was on, but Elizabeth was on her side, curled up, eyes closed. She’d fallen asleep, the magazine she’d been reading on the floor beside the bed, her fingertips dangling of the edge as if she’d turned over and let it fall.

She was here. And she was asleep. He had time to think.

Jason changed into a pair of sweats, then went over to switch off the light, picking up the magazine so she wouldn’t slip on it in the morning. Then he climbed into bed next to her, listening to her breathing, soft and even.

He’d grown used to it since she’d come to stay there, liked sharing a bed with her and it filled him with pride that she trusted him enough to sleep beside him every night. She’d been so nervous that first night, but now it was normal.

He liked Sonny’s idea of just leaving the idea of divorce off the table until they wanted to think about it. Eventually, she’d leave him. She accepted things for now, more than Robin had and differently from Carly, but one day, she’d want something else. He’d handle it when it came, but until then, he’d hold on to what they had now.

He wasn’t sure when he fell asleep, but he must have because the next thing he knew, sunlight was sliding through the cracks in the curtains at the windows. He was still laying on his back, but Elizabeth had turned over in the night and was now facing him, still sleeping, a hand tucked beneath her cheek, her hair loose around her shoulders, curls falling over her face.

Her eyelids fluttered and Jason tensed. He should get up before her, be out of the room before she woke, even if that felt cowardly. He wasn’t ready to face her yet, hadn’t figured out what to say to her to keep her from making that face again, from smiling with her mouth and not her eyes—

But it was too late. She rolled onto her back, stretching her arms over her head, then crossing them over her eyes. “We need darker curtains,” she mumbled. “Can we get them in black?”

He turned, propping himself on his elbow. “What about the blinds?”

“You have money. We’ll get them custom made—” Elizabeth’s voice was still slurred as she drifted between a state of sleep and alertness.

“I can do that.”

She let her hands fall to her side, her eyes open now, still a bit unfocused. Watching her wake up, climb through the layers until she was fully awake, was one of his new favorite ways to spend the morning.

“Hey,” she said softly. “Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

“I spent yesterday at the studio,” she said, “thinking about what you said.”

He braced himself. Would she want to annul things now? Had she already had enough?

“At first I thought you told me because you wanted me to be ready,” she continued. “Because maybe it wouldn’t even be six months. Maybe it’d be next month.”

Jason frowned. “I—”

“And it hurt,” she admitted, her voice soft. “Because it was like you were already—because if we got divorced, we couldn’t—I mean, it would be weird and people would wonder. So it was like you were planning for the end—”

He was, but— “Not that way—”

“No, I know.” Now she smiled and this time it was real, he could see it in her eyes, in her cheeks, and feel it in the way her body was still relaxed from sleep. “You told me because it concerns me and you wanted me to have a choice.”

The tension slid from him and he nodded. “Because you needed to know, but—”

“I don’t know what I want to do,” she interrupted. “Because six months doesn’t feel like enough time, but I don’t think it’s right to just…drift into marriage either. It’s a promise. And I don’t think we should just ignore it like it doesn’t matter.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Does that make sense?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “Yeah. It does.”

“Do you have to be anywhere?”

“Not for a few more hours.”

“Good.” Elizabeth slid closer. “Can we just lay here for a little while? I missed you last night.”

“I missed you, too.” He tugged her into his arms, and they lay together in the quiet, early morning. Just the two of them.

Comments

  • *sighs* Love that ending.

    According to Angela on January 16, 2022
  • I adore you. Your talent to write characters consistently throughout a story, creating a cadence within each chapter and throughout is incredible. Thank you for sharing your time with us.

    According to Living Liason on January 16, 2022
  • I hope that they’re going to be alright. Sonny needs to keep his thoughts to himself. I just love how you write our couple.

    According to arcoiris0502 on January 16, 2022
  • I look forward to Sunday, I love the conversations between Jason and Elizabeth and I love they are growing closer. I just hope that AJ does something with Carly before she makes Jason and Elizabeth’s life hell.

    According to Becca on January 16, 2022
  • Lovely chapter. I’m glad that Elizabeth had the courage to start that conversation, I’m not sure Jason would have. Seriously, while I don’t want anyone to get hurt, I kind of hope that Carly finds herself doing a life time stint in Fern Cliff. The Sonny you are scripting now, can easily rock the single parent thing as can AJ.

    According to nanci on January 16, 2022
  • The ending was great. I hope Jason, Liz, and Sonny start working on bringing down Carly as soon as possible.

    According to Shelly Wendy Samuel on January 16, 2022
  • You had my stomach in knots until the end. I am so glad Elizabeth told Jason how she felt. I really hope Sonny and Jason doesn’t think Carly is finish with them.

    According to Carla P on January 16, 2022
  • Glad that was resolved–kinda.
    Carly needs her butt kicked and Jason needs a lesson in communication.

    loved it

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on January 16, 2022
  • What Angela said. I love the way you make them so true to the original characters

    According to Leasmom on January 17, 2022
  • Great update. Whew! Thank goodness Elizabeth didn’t just react, but thought about the situation. I love this story.

    According to Felicia on January 18, 2022