Flash Fiction: Warning Shots – Part 16

This entry is part 16 of 26 in the Flash Fiction: Warning Shots

Written in 63 minutes.


April 2000

“I knew it wouldn’t stay quiet forever,” Sonny muttered, finishing the last of the bourbon and sliding the empty tumbler across the bar towards Luke. “He hasn’t bothered you yet because he knows—”

“Bothering me is bothering you and I don’t think he’s ready to take that on just yet. But no doubt, all this peace we’ve had for the last year is Moreno biding his time. You keep your guard up.” Luke finished his own drink — whiskey for him. “And be ready. Because once he comes for me, you’re not far behind.”

“No, that’s for sure. I’ll keep in touch.”

Sonny stopped at the door let Lucky pass by. “Lucky,” he said, politely. “How are things?”

Lucky said nothing, sparing only a dirty look for his former employer, and headed inside to the bar. Sonny shook his head. It was a shame really, the kid had had such potential once.

“You fix that snag your mother had over at Deception?” Luke said, tossing the used glasses in the green plastic tub. “She seemed panicked on the phone—”

“Bug in the inventory software. It’s fine.” Lucky perched on the stool. “Can I get one of those?” he asked when his father passed by the line of taps.

“No, you’re not twenty-one. And it’s noon. What’s the problem, Cowboy? Why do you want to drink away your sorrows this early?”

Lucky squinted, then dragged a hand down the side of his face. “Nikolas. He was at the office, and barely looked at me. He and Emily are still pretending I don’t exist.”

“Well, that happens sometimes in a breakup. People choose sides.” Luke set a bottle of water down in front of his son. “I know it hurts because Emily was your friend first, and the Dark Prince is family of a sort, but you need to stop letting all of that bring you down. Didn’t you say you were going to register for classes next fall?”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s just—” Lucky rolled the bottle in his hands. “I apologized to all of them. Months ago. None of them wanted to listen. Elizabeth—she got to them all—”

“I don’t know about any of that—”

“She made it sound like I committed genocide instead of standing her up—I just wanted to make her remember me, Dad. To think about me once a in while. Is that so bad?”

Luke hesitated. “I don’t know if I’m the person to be asking for advice, Cowboy. All I can say is actions have consequences. Elizabeth decided she didn’t like what you did, and that’s her right. Emily and Nikolas will come around. Give it some more time.”

It was stupid to be nervous. Stupid to be standing in front of the entrance to the garage, planning what she wanted to say over and over and over again. Two months ago, she wouldn’t have even blinked at walking in, and there was nothing about that week on the island that should change any of it.

Elizabeth bit her lip, looked at at the tickets in her hands. It had been a months since they’d come home, and she hadn’t seen Jason once, not even in at Kelly’s. Though that wasn’t really his fault — she was working a lot of the opening shifts so she could spend all her free time in the studio at school, prepping for the show.

Maybe she’d go in, see him and it would all be the way it used to be. No nerves. Just Emily’s older brother who’d gotten her out of some jams this year—

And who she’d walked on the beach with in the moonlight, and had touched his bare chest—

Shut up. You’re insane. Just open the damn door.

Elizabeth finally tugged the front door open and walked through the lobby to the garage bay where she could hear the sounds of metal clanking. There was a four-door sedan parked with its hood up. One tanned hand curled over the edge of the car, and she could make out a gray t-shirt.

“Jason?”

The hand jerked off the car, and Jason appeared a minute later, his eyes just a bit wide—startled, she realized when he immediately reached for the rag in the back pockets of his jeans, started to wipe his hands. “Elizabeth. Hey. Uh. Hey.”

“Hey. Sorry for, um, just dropping by like this, but I didn’t—” She bit her lip, came forward so she could see all of him, and wasn’t talking to him with a car between them. “Emily’s okay. No one’s been arrested or anything.”

“I wasn’t—I didn’t think that’s why—” Jason hesitated, seemed to avoid looking at her. “That’s good to hear.”

“Yeah, we’ve both been too busy for bar fights. Finals and everything. Um, that’s why I’m here. The art show, you know the one I talked about on the island? A-nd a few months ago?” Elizabeth asked.

“Yeah. I remember. It’s coming up, isn’t it?” Jason lowered the hood.

“Yeah. Next week. It’s—they  gave us tickets to give to family members. I just—don’t really have a lot of family. That lives here.  I have four of them, and—well, Emily and my grandmother. And Nikolas. But—” She held up the ticket. “I just wanted to invite you.”

For the first time since she’d arrived, he finally looked at her. “Me?” He sounded so surprised, and it threw her off.

“Yeah. I mean, I know you said you didn’t do anything, but the project that got me into the show—it’s—” She closed her eyes, heat spreading in her cheeks because this was going so badly. He couldn’t be making it more clear that he wasn’t interested in any of this. He could barel look at her. Just get through this and get out, she told herself. She opened her eyes, met his eyes. “I was feeling really low and just about ready to completely drop out of the whole art thing when I got that project back in December. And you told me to just go for it, because it’s not like it could get much worse, and I know that doesn’t seem like it was important. And maybe it wasn’t to you. But it made a huge difference.” She stepped towards him. “You don’t have to go. I know it’s not your kind of thing. But I needed you to know that I don’t know if I’d be anywhere near ready for this kind of thing if you hadn’t given me just that little push six months ago.”

“You did all the work,” Jason said, his eyes softer now. “You’re giving me too much credit again.”

“Standing on this side of things, it doesn’t feel that way. Plus, I started three of the pieces on the island, and that wouldn’t have happened without you.” She bit her lip. “We haven’t really had a chance to talk since we got home, but I was thinking—”

“You know, you really need to hire someone out front—” The loud, brash voice cut in and Elizabeth turned around to see Carly strolling around the corner. The blonde stopped short, shoved her sunglasses up onto her head. “What is this, a daycare? What are you doing here?”

“What do you want, Carly?” Jason asked, shoving the rag into his back pocket.

Carly ignored his question, her brown eyes still focused on Elizabeth. “Aren’t you dating my cousin?”

“Your cousin—Lucky?” Elizabeth said. She furrowed her brow. “No. What does that have to do with anything?”

Carly just made a face, fisted her hands at her hips. “Oh, the innocent act. Please, I invented that. What are you doing here?” she demanded.

Bewildered, Elizabeth looked back to Jason who remained silent. “Nothing,” she said finally. She laid the ticket down on the hood of the car. “I have to go anyway.”

Carly darted forward, snatched up the ticket before Jason could grab it. “You’re inviting him to some rinky-dink art show at a college?” She snorted, her eyes sparkling with malevolent glee. “Oh, this is amazing. Is this what passes for flirting these days?” she asked Jason, the ticket fluttering in her hand.  “What an absolute child you are. It’s almost sweet.”

“Knock it off, Carly,” Jason said, but it was too little, too late. And it wasn’t exactly the ringing defense Elizabeth might have wanted.  She wanted to snatch the ticket from the acerbic blonde’s hand but there was no point.

She’d come here with that ticket to see if maybe she’d been insane on the island, and she’d received her answer.

“Come or don’t,” she told Jason, who’d gone back to not looking at her. “I’ll get out of your way now.”

And then she left.

The second Jason heard the front door to the garage swing shut, he snatched the ticket from Carly. “What is your problem?” he demanded shoving it in his front pocket.

“Come on, Jase—” She came up behind him, encircled his torso, but he shrugged her off. “I know you’re mad because this is taking too long—”

“I’m mad because you keep showing up here like something is going to change. How many different ways do I have to say no?” he demanded. Tears shimmered in her eyes, but she then laughed — that low, chuckle that always made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“It’s that girl, isn’t it? That child. You’re actually thinking about her. What, you embarrassed to be seen with me?” she demanded.

“I’m not doing this with you. Every damn time—” Jason shook his head, headed for the sink to wash his hands.

“Well, you’re not going to have to worry about that one.” Carly lounged against the counter next to him. “Didn’t you see the way she looked before she practically ran out of here? You know, you’re great in bed, but you still know jack shit about men—”

“Go home to your husband,” he said pointedly.

“She looked at you, practically begging you to save her from the big, bad, mean Carly. And what did you do?” She lifted her brows. “I mean, were you trying to run her off?”

No, not like that — “Go home,” he said again. “My life is none of your business.”

“Then again, you could probably reel her back in. Mealy mouthed girls like her are always looking for the hero.” Carly’s fingers danced across his chest. He grabbed her wrist, shoved her back. “She can’t give you what I can.”

“No, she can’t,” Jason said bluntly, and Carly’s lips started to curve in a smile. “That’s not a compliment, Carly. There’s nothing you’ve given me that I want. So for the last time, get out.”

“Fine. Fine. You stick with your little princesses who only want to flirt with the dark side. Eventually  you’re realize I’m the only one you need, and you’ll be back.” She stormed out, the slam of the door harsher this time.

Jason exhaled slowly, then slid his hand in his pocket to draw the ticket back out, looked at it. She’d been so nervous trying to explain why she was here, why she was inviting him. He didn’t understand how something he’d said in passing all those months ago could matter that much, but he respected that she felt like it did.

And he wanted to go, even if he wouldn’t really understand the paintings she’d done. She’d be happy and smiling, the way she used to before Lucky had hurt her. He missed the way her eyes sparkled when she was full of excitement. But if he went there, it would be just for her. And she’d know that. And maybe he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from seeing her again. He’d avoided Kelly’s since they came home, wanting the distance. Needing it, afraid that the way he was starting to feel could be seen on his face.

The last thing Jason — or Elizabeth needed — was people in his life thinking he had someone that mattered. The wrong people.

He slid the ticket under a pile of papers on the desk in his office. He’d made choices a long time ago that limited what he could do, what he could have, and he was going to have to live with that.

“Emily,” Elizabeth hissed. “Do you see that blonde coming towards us?”

Her best friend twisted her head. “Yeah. The one with eyes like a shark?”

“Great. You’re looking right at her. Never go into surveillance. You’d be terrible. Yes. That’s Ava Jerome.”

“Jerome? Like Jerome Galleries?” Emily’s eyes widened. “And she’s—” She closed her mouth when the woman in question moved into earshot, her piercing blue eyes taking in the wall behind Elizabeth.

“You’re the artist?” she asked Elizabeth. She held out her hand. “Ava Jerome.”

Elizabeth shook it, hoping her glee was under wraps. “I’ve been in both your Port Charles and New York galleries. Your exhibits are amazing.”

“Yes, I’ve been known to have an eye for talent—” Ava murmured, her attention on the paintings now. “Francesca is an old friend.”

Francesca— “Dr. Watts?” Elizabeth squeezed out.

“Yes. She always send the names of her most promising students to me. She knows I like to be on the ground floor with new talent. These—” Ava lifted her chin. “These are quite good. How old are you?”

“I’ll be twenty in November.”

“So nineteen. And yet—” she gestured at the top left painting — the sketch of that night in the park that she’d done in oils. “There’s a depth that seems far more mature. Tragic, almost. The use of the red here—” Her finger moved to another painting — a beach under the moonlight, with just dim figures at the edge of the waterline. “And this one…it could be insipid, or sentimental. But it’s not—there’s a yearning with the shadows and perspective you’ve chosen—” Ava looked at Elizabeth. “Francesca said that you’d held yourself in too much, and she wasn’t sure you’d ever be able to let go. I’m glad she was wrong.”

“I—I’m so…I’m sorry. I’m having trouble forming words, Ms. Jerome. Standing in front of you, and you’re talking about my art. It’s just—it feels like a fever dream,” Elizabeth admitted. “I’m sorry. I can’t really wrap my head around it.”

“I’m used to that. When you’ve finished exhibiting these, come to the gallery. We’ll work out a commission contract.” Ava stepped back, held out her business card. “I have some buyers in mind that would be interested.”

“Buyers. You—you want to put my work in your gallery?”

“I know what I like, what sells, and I don’t waste time. Call me, Miss Webber. I think we could make each other a lot of money.”

“Holy shit,” Emily breathed when Ava had walked away. “Holy shit, Elizabeth. You’re going to be in the Jerome Gallery.”

“I—” Elizabeth pressed a fist to her heart, stared down at the business  card in her hand, with Ava’s cell phone number written in blue ink on the back. “I’m not sure this is really happening.”

“Oh, there’s Nikolas. He’s not going to believe this!” Emily danced off to greet their friend. Nikolas was happy for her and so were her grandmother and Juan. Bobbie had bought tickets and she’d been overjoyed.

But all night, Elizabeth kept looking towards the door. She’d known he probably wouldn’t show up, but she’d hoped she’d misunderstood that horrible day in the garage, but when the night started to wind down and there was still no Jason, Elizabeth chided herself for ever thinking she was more than just his little sister’s best friend.

Comments

  • Carly is nasty as ever. Poor Jason and his insecurities.

    According to LilaB on June 17, 2024
  • Oh good. Both of the whiney bitch babies are back. Well it was nice having a break from them while it lasted. Bobbie!! Always love when she shows up for Elizabeth. Come on, Jason. Show up and let her show you another way to live.

    According to Beth on June 17, 2024
  • Lucky is a whiny little twerp and Carly is a menace. Aww Elizabeth is going to have her art in a prestigious gallery. Jason had better show up even for just a couple of minutes. Great update.

    According to nanci on June 17, 2024
  • Carly is just look attention from Jason that is why she is nasty to Liz. I can’t wait for Liz to be selling her art through Ava.

    According to Shelly Samuel on June 17, 2024
  • Great Update!!

    According to Tammy on June 18, 2024
  • I am so happy for Elizabeth. I hate that Carly will set her sights on Elizabeth because of Jason. You can tell Carly and Lucky are related.

    According to Carla P on June 19, 2024