There has to be a change I’m sure
Today was just a day fading into another
And that can’t be what a life is for
And anything she said well she feels a lot better
And that’s all that really matters to me
– Amy Hit the Atmosphere, Counting Crows
Friday, July 11, 2003
Elizabeth winced as she heard another crash behind the counter. She looked at Bobbie who just shook her head. “Really brings back memories, doesn’t it?” she murmured as she lifted her cup of tea to her lips.
“You weren’t the worst waitress we ever had.” Bobbie flinched as another crash came. She twisted in her seat to see Brooke Lynn Ashton pop up from behind the counter, her face flushed, and several pieces of broken dishes in her hands.
Nearby, Penny Ramirez only sighed and grabbed a plastic tub.
Elizabeth watched the scene wistfully. “A few years ago, that was me. And last summer, I was training the new waitresses.” She pursed her lips. “You looking to hire? I could use a job.”
“I think we can find something better for you.” Bobbie stirred some sugar into her coffee. “I thought you were taking some time off. Trying to relax. Are you even cleared to go back to work?”
“In a few weeks. Monica wanted me to wait a full month.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s not like Gram and Gramps didn’t leave enough to support me for a while. And I just got the check with my portion from the sale of their house, so I’m okay. I just…I need something to do.”
“Well, Kelly’s will be here if you need it.” Bobbie tilted her head. “Did I ever tell you why Ruby didn’t fire you?”
“Oh, God. She must have wanted to a thousand times that first six months. I was the absolute worst waitress.” Elizabeth tucked her hair behind her ears. “But Ruby never gave up on me.”
“She said you reminded her of me at that age. Running wild, never listening to anyone, doing everything you could to get yourself in trouble.” Bobbie hesitated. “But you showed up to do the job and she saw you trying. She wanted to keep an eye on you. To give you something to hold on to.”
“I miss her so much. I mean, I know Don tries with the chili, but it won’t ever be the same.” Elizabeth propped her hand on her chin. “How’s Carly doing? I haven’t seen her since I got home.”
“She’s doing okay, I guess. I’m glad she went to see Kevin, but there are still some…rough moments. She’ll do better when the trial is over.”
Elizabeth looked at her watch. “The bail hearing is probably wrapping up. Do you think he’s going to get released?”
“I don’t know. I wish I could predict what the courts will do.” Bobbie paused. “Are you worried?”
“About my safety? Not really. Um, the condo building Nikolas found is relatively secure. And Jason doesn’t know I know this, but I think he either bought the building or put some of his guys in there, because I recognize some of the security guards in the lobby.” She chewed her bottom lip. “And it’s not like I’m sharing a house with him, so I don’t know. I guess I just…I’m with Carly. I want it over with.”
“You have the restraining order for a few more weeks, and I’m guessing this is probably the longest Jason has left you alone since you came home on Wednesday.” Bobbie lifted her brows. “He’s not smothering you, is he?”
“No.” Elizabeth’s lips curved. “Not yet. Today, I convinced him that I could handle being out with just Cody—” She gave a wave to her bodyguard who was drinking a coffee at the counter. “And that he needed to get back to work. To his regular life so we could figure out a new normal.”
“Carly told Sonny the same thing.” Bobbie smiled now. “They’ll relax eventually. It was just—I don’t have to tell you how terrified we all were while Carly was missing, but when you were in that coma—” She shook her head. “I can’t begin to tell you what was going on. Everything seemed to shift. To change. I saw Jason working with Nikolas to get that power of attorney back, Lucky and Scott were getting along—Scott gave Jason a character reference in court.”
“Scott Baldwin?” Elizabeth asked with a raise of her brows. “The PCPD really doesn’t want me to sue the city, do they?”
“I know Justus suggested you consider it,” Bobbie said. “The department really didn’t—”
“He suggested it, yeah, but he said we probably wouldn’t win. At best, I might get a settlement with an apology.” Elizabeth sighed. “I don’t know. I mean, a jury is going to wonder why I stayed—”
“And then you explain it to them.” Bobbie leaned forward. “But you’re thinking of what they’ll ask about Jason.”
“Yeah, Diane Miller—she’s the one handling my divorce and restraining order—she said that Ric’s best bet is character assassination. Carly and I can testify about the panic room, but the order is about—” Elizabeth shook her head. “I don’t know. We weren’t…we weren’t sleeping together, but that doesn’t change—” She bit her lip. “I don’t know how to explain that week—”
“An emotional affair,” Bobbie said with a slow exhale and a half smile. “I’ve had one or two of those myself. A close friendship that strays over the line just a few times. Where the intimacy and emotions are not platonic.” She paused. “Alan and I nearly…”
“Alan Quartermaine?’ Elizabeth repeated. “As in—”
“Monica had breast cancer, and she handled that the best way she knew how. But Alan was shut out, and I was struggling after BJ—so we just…drifted towards one another. We stopped ourselves before—I mean, we didn’t go full out, but it didn’t mean we hadn’t thought about it.” Bobbie shook her head. “I’m not proud, but I understand how a situation can…escalate.”
“Yeah, well, that’s probably the best way to describe it. The fact that Jason and I are now…I guess dating is what we’re doing, but that just sounds weird…Diane thinks that’s going to come up at the hearing and in our divorce.”
“It doesn’t change the fact the Ric put his hands on you. That he nearly killed you.”
“You and I both know the world doesn’t always—” Elizabeth trailed off when she saw Lucky come through the doors, followed by another officer.
“Lucky.” Bobbie stood to kiss her nephew’s cheek. “And this is Dante, right? Dante…”
“Falconieri, ma’am.” He held out a hand for Bobbie to shake. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Have you met Elizabeth, yet?” Bobbie asked, gesturing to Elizabeth who had also stood.
“Not in, um, person,” Dante said with a half-smile. “I was one of the officers who parked outside your place. And I was at the hospital a few times.”
“Right. I kind of remember you. Thank you. I felt a lot safer knowing you were out there.” She looked at Lucky who hadn’t met her eyes yet. “Look at you, in your uniform,” she said with a half-forced smile. “Who would have believed it?”
“No one,” Bobbie said with a laugh as she wrapped her hand around Lucky’s upper arm. “But I think it’s a good fit.”
“We just came by for coffee,” Lucky said, “but we got a call while we were in the courtyard.” He met Elizabeth’s eyes now. “Ric posted bail.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes. Nodded. “Okay.” She looked at Cody who joined them. “Ric made bail,” she repeated to him.
“Brooke, why don’t you get these officers some coffee?” Bobbie called. “Uh…Penny, can you help her?”
Lucky kissed Bobbie’s cheek and then went to the counter with Dante. The other cop smiled at Brooke, said something to her—but Elizabeth didn’t hear it.
“You okay?” Cody asked, his voice low. She looked back at him. “Should I—”
“Yeah, you should call Jason because he and Sonny should both know. They need to tell Carly. But I’m okay.” She touched the sleeve of Cody’s suit jacket. “Really. I promise.”
“Okay.” Cody waited until Lucky and Dante had received their coffees and left before moving back to his seat and pulling out his phone.
Bobbie and Elizabeth sat back down, the air a bit more tense than it had been before. “Elizabeth…”
“Lucky seemed weird, didn’t he?” Elizabeth asked. “We haven’t really talked in months—not since October when I helped break Luke out of jail. But he just…I don’t know. He didn’t seem like himself.”
“I’ve noticed that he seems a bit…uncomfortable sometimes,” Bobbie admitted. “It’s hard to say. Lucky has been through so much in the last few years—and I wonder about that last brainwashing—before the wedding.”
“If maybe it was more than just taking away his love for me,” Elizabeth murmured with a tip of her head. “He seemed different after that, yeah. I can’t really explain it. I guess…it’s time to accept that part of Lucky never came back.”
“I know. Every time it seems like he’s finding his feet, he gets them pulled out again. But I have high hopes for this job. He’s made new friends—ones that didn’t know him before and I think that will help with the pressure.” Bobbie offered her a smile. “You’re both moving on. I’m so glad to see you both doing better.”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Elizabeth said with a half-smile. “I’m okay. That’s the goal right now. To just wake up and be okay. Better…that comes later.”
Kelly’s: Dining Room
“Well, that’s the lunch rush,” Penny told Brooke with a bright smile. “Georgie is going to take over for me.” She hung her apron up on the hook and headed out the back door.
“Couldn’t wait to leave me,” Brooke muttered as Dillon’s girlfriend sighed, tying her apron.
“Don’t mind Penny. Her mind is always somewhere else.” Georgie glanced out in the dining room. “Just the one coffee drinker?”
“Yeah.” Brooke’s feet were killing her, but she’d promised Tammy that she’d work until six that evening. “Who’s working the closing?”
“Me and Maxie, even though Mac had to practically force her into it.” Georgie grimaced. “After Courtney quit, things were okay for a while because Liz was still here. She was here for years—but then she quit and that was two experienced waitresses in like five minutes. They’re still trying to replace them.”
“Yeah, I guess I’m not much of an improvement.” Brooke bit her lip. “And you don’t even like me.”
“I don’t know you, as Dillon reminded me.” Georgie hesitated. “And he reminded me that parents are universally awful so…”
“Yeah, what’s wrong with yours?” Brooke asked as she followed the blonde out to the counter where Georgie started to fill the coffee grinder with beans.
“Well, Dad works for the WSB and hasn’t really been around. I see him maybe once a year. Mom’s okay, but she has crappy priorities. She got married a few years ago to Mac, and then I don’t know what happened, but she ruined that. She’s in Texas with my great-grandmother, Mariah. Maxie and I are staying with Mac. He’s not our stepdad anymore, but he’s basically the only real dad we know.” She flicked her dark brown gaze at Brooke. “What’s your story?”
“Same thing with my dad, but he doesn’t have the excuse that he’s off saving the world,” Brooke said as she wrapped utensils in napkins. “He was just a few hours away and too busy to be my dad. And my mom is a real hard ass. Nothing is ever good enough for her. She forced me to go to college and then got pissed because I failed.” She wrinkled her nose. “And then sent me here because it was too hard to deal with me anymore, I guess.”
“It sucks when your parents aren’t together,” Georgie offered with a sigh. “I mean, look at Dillon. His dad is never around either and his mother is Tracy. I mean, she’s your grandmother. You can feel his pain.” She flashed a half smile. “We actually all have that in common—really shitty parents.”
“Yeah? No normal ones in the bunch at all?”
“Nope.” Georgie hit the button for the grinder and waited for it to finish before she spoke again. “Lucas comes close. He was adopted in a black-market baby ring, lived with Bobbie for a while before going back to his real mother, who then died and gave him back to Bobbie and Tony. Then Bobbie and Tony exploded, and they fought over him in court. His dad ended up having an affair with his stepdaughter, but no one knew Carly was related to Bobbie yet.”
She expertly set the filters into the pot and filled each pot with coffee grounds. “Maxie has my story, only she fights with Mac all the time. Lu’s mom had a nervous breakdown and went crazy, and her dad is a functioning alcoholic. There’s Kyle, but I’m not sure we’re really adopting him into the circle yet.”
Brooke raised her brows. “Maybe there’s something in the water here.”
“Seriously,” Georgie snorted. “Kyle’s actually normal because his parents are just divorced, still live in Port Charles, and then dragged him into court every year until last year when he turned eighteen. But he’s an asshole, so he doesn’t count.”
She took a deep breath and looked at Brooke. “I’m sorry your mom shoved you up here, but if you give us a chance, maybe it won’t suck so much.”
“Yeah, that’s what Dillon said. He said you and Lucas were okay, Maxie was a pain, and he’s not convinced what sort Kyle is yet.” She laughed. “And apparently, Lulu is crazy.”
“That sums it up. C’mon, let me show you how to fill out the tickets because Penny’s way isn’t right.”
Morgan Penthouse: Living Room
Justus slid his finger over the amount at the bottom of the retainer agreement Sonny had handed him. “This is…a lot of money.”
“I know you said you weren’t interested in leaving Philadelphia, and I get that you’ve got a new baby. A wife.” Perched on Jason’s green sofa, Sonny leaned forward. “And there’s no hard feelings if you decline. I just wanted to make sure you knew how much we valued you. How much you saved our asses.”
Justus waited a long moment. “I’d have to talk this over with Tia. I appreciate it, Sonny. I’m not saying no because of the work. Her family is in Philly. Some of mine is—you know both my sisters are there, Keesha and Faith.”
“And Port Charles has the Quartermaines, so believe me, I get the purpose of distance.” Sonny leaned back. “Go home, be with your family. Consider it. Thank you for these last few weeks. I know it was hard to be away from your family.”
“It was.” Justus flashed a smile and dug into his pocket. “Have you seen my girls? They’re everything.” He flipped open his wallet and held it out. Jason looked over Sonny’s shoulder at a beautiful smiling woman holding an infant in her arms.
“She’s beautiful. What’s her name?” Sonny asked, handing it back.
“Kimani,” he replied. “We call her Kimi for short.” Justus got to his feet, slipping his wallet back into his back pocket. “I’ll be in touch. I’m glad I could help out. Take care of yourself.” He shook Sonny’s hand, then Jason’s, and left.
“I wouldn’t blame him if he kept his life in Philly,” Sonny said with a murmur after Jason closed the door. “You know how Edward gets when he thinks there’s a kid to latch on to.”
Jason grimaced at the thought of it, then his phone vibrated in his back pocket. He pulled it out. “Cody, hey. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. Spencer and Falconieri just came to Kelly’s and ran into Miss Webber. The bail hearing is over—Ric got bail and he already posted it.”
Jason grimaced, but nodded. “So, he’s already gone?”
“Yeah. I called our guy at the courthouse. Lansing got permission to relocate to Crimson Point to stay with his dad
“Thanks, Cody. I’ll see you later.” Jason closed his phone and tossed it on the pool table behind him. “Ric’s out, and he’s gonna be going down to Crimson Point.”
“Going after him now might still be risky,” Sonny admitted, “but if he’s down with the Zaccharas, it’s another suspect. We should look into it, see how easy it might be to arrange an accident.” He moved over to the desk where they were sorting through some trucking schedules. “Speaking of the Zaccharas, I got a call from Anthony.”
“Yeah? It didn’t go through Enzo?” Jason said with a frown. “Usually Enzo calls Benny—or now Bernie, I guess. Zacchara doesn’t usually get involved.”
“He seemed to think the arrest of his lawyer’s son for crimes against my wife warranted it.” Sonny’s smile was thin and sour. “Wanted to make sure he knew that this was all Ric’s vendetta.”
“You buy that?”
“I buy that maybe Zacchara and Lansing had some hopes. When Faith pulled Ric in, they tried to capitalize on it. But now? With all eyes on us and shipments basically at a halt, if Zacchara makes it worse—he won’t just have me to deal with. He’ll have the others breathing down his neck. Money talks.”
Sonny took in the penthouse and grimaced. “God, my sister has bad taste in decorating. You should let Carly deal with this crap.”
Jason shrugged. “I got rid of the cabinet that made it hard to play pool,” he said. “I don’t care other than that.” He hesitated. “Unless you think it would help Carly.”
“She’s…doing okay, I guess. I was driving her nuts the first few days, I think. But I’m trying to let her out of my sight.” Sonny shook his head. “It’s hard. But Max goes with her everywhere, and I try to let that be enough. She’s going back to work at the Cellar tonight.”
“I’m glad.” Jason looked away. “I made some calls. I’m seeing Baker next week.”
“I’ve been thinking about it, Jase. I know it was my idea, but maybe this isn’t the best thing. For you to go, I mean. We could send one of our guys in or bribe a guard to pass a message.”
“And if that didn’t work? What if he sends her another letter?” Jason demanded. He shook his head. “No. It has to be me.” When Sonny remained unconvinced, he scowled. “What if it were Carly, Sonny?”
“If it was, would you let someone else deal with it?”
Sonny looked away, rubbing his hand against his chest. What would he do if he learned that a man who had violated the woman he loved was trying to get in touch with her? What if Carly didn’t want to know? Had told him not to do anything? Would he be content in sending someone else with a warning?
“I’d probably do the same thing you’re doing. But that doesn’t mean either of us would be right. Look at me, Jase. You and Elizabeth—you’re just putting things back together. Why do you want to do something that might mess that up?”
Jason shook his head. “It won’t—”
“Because it’s one thing to send someone with a warning. You can tell her that, she’d probably be grateful. But I don’t know, if you go see the guy—you can’t tell her. That feels different. I don’t know why.”
“So, you’re wrong about not telling her—”
“You want to take the risk that you put that asshole back in her head?” Sonny asked. “No, man, I’m telling you. You put yourself in that room with him, and tell her you’re doing it, it just feels like you’d be crossing a line. She didn’t want to do anything. Are you even going to tell her you still have that damn letter?” He arched his brow.
“I—” Jason sighed. “No.”
“You’re already lying to her. You tell her you have the letter, you go see him—I’m telling you, Jase. She doesn’t want to know anything about him or this letter. You can probably skate by with the warning, but don’t do this yourself.”
“I won’t tell her—”
“Jase…” Sonny moved towards him. “I get it. You can’t make Ric go away right now. Neither of us can. So here you’ve got someone else who hurt her, and you think this is a thing you can fix. I know you.”
“I—” Jason closed his eyes. “I know you’re right. I know that. I wish like hell I’d thrown that letter out and just forgotten about it. But I didn’t. And what if he gets out in a couple of months and tries to see her?”
“Then we make a few calls and make it clear to him that he stays the hell away from Port Charles. Don’t go to see him. Jason, I just—” Sonny shook his head. “Take it from me. I’ve destroyed more than a few relationships by doing what I thought was right and not listening to the other person.”
“I’m going to see him,” Jason said again. “I’ll need to make sure he knows to leave Elizabeth—and Emily—alone.” He hesitated. “I can’t do nothing. Elizabeth—” He rubbed his chest. “She’ll understand. I won’t—I won’t say anything to her right away. I’ll wait until she’s stronger.”
“Sure.” Sonny eyed him with skepticism before shrugging. “You know her better than me.”
“Okay.” Jason shook his head, as if to clear it. “Let’s finish this paperwork. I want to check with the security at her building.”
Lucky was unsurprised to find Kelsey sliding onto a bar stool that night, but some of her usual animation had faded. Her dark brown eyes were shadowed with purple circles.
He glanced down the rest of the bar, but it was still early enough in the evening that it wasn’t packed and that night’s featured music group hadn’t taken the stage yet. He poured a glass of water and set it down in front of her. “Long day?”
“Yeah.” Kelsey sighed, rested an elbow on the bar, then propped her chin on her hand. “You can probably guess why.”
“I know Ric Lansing bailed himself out,” Lucky offered. “You want your usual?” When she nodded, he took down the bottle of gin. “Didn’t you expect him to?”
“I guess. And I get it. I’ve read all the studies that defendants are better able to assist their attorneys outside of jail. They’re able to advocate for themselves more effectively.” She scowled. “We want a fair justice system, but I don’t know…this guy—”
She reached for the bowl of peanuts Lucky kept on the bar and shelled a few of them. “I wasn’t really on the case. Scott kept control of it, but I’ve been helping on some of the legwork. There’s a lot of paperwork, and Scott wants to get it right.”
“Yeah, Taggert and Mac are checking everything with a fine-tooth.” Lucky set her drink down. “I was surprised the judge agreed to let him go to Crimson Point.”
“Yeah, that didn’t make Scott that happy. He’s out of our jurisdiction, so keeping an eye on him is going to be harder. He has one of those ankle monitors.” Kelsey grimaced. “Now I know why my dad went into tax law. This—” She hesitated. “This feels so important. Like, the weight of what he did to those women—” She wrinkled her nose. “I forgot. You know them—”
“Yeah, more or less.” Lucky scratched his temple, a bit discomforted. “Carly’s my cousin though we’ve never been close. Elizabeth—we—” He lifted a shoulder. “We were engaged.”
“Oh.” Kelsey lifted her brows. She didn’t look irritated, merely interested. “You didn’t make it to the altar?”
“Ha. Yeah, well, we did. Except that’s as far as we got. It’s—” Lucky paused, trying to decide just how much crazy he wanted to throw at her. He liked the pretty ADA, with her quick smiles, sharp wit, and gorgeous eyes. What would he have to offer someone like her? He couldn’t even tell the story of his life without simply repeating facts he didn’t entirely remember living through.
“It’s a long story,” he said. “But I guess the best way to sum it up is this — my family had a lot of issues with another family—the Cassadines. Blood feud, if you can believe it. Elizabeth and I were teenagers. Crazy in love.” Sometimes, when he saw her, he could almost remember that.
“Wait, the Cassadines?” Kelsey tapped her chin. “I think I remember something about this. Dad knew your mother a little bit. He said she’d been kidnapped by some crazy Greeks. Held hostage for years.” She wrinkled her nose. “Oh, sorry. I guess—”
“Yeah, part of that lifetime of trauma thing. Well, when Mom escaped, Dad ended up killing the man who had held her hostage. We thought so anyway. Helena Cassadine—the guy’s mother—she had it out for my Mom and Dad already, but this just made it worse. When I was a teenager, Helena faked my death and then…” He waited a moment. “Brainwashed me into hating my family and basically forgetting Elizabeth.”
“Oh, God.” Her eyes were as round as saucers. “Lucky, I’m so sorry.”
“It—yeah, it messed up my life for a long time.” He rolled his shoulders. “I was gonna marry Elizabeth anyway. I didn’t remember her. I didn’t remember loving her. But I knew she loved me. I thought I owed her that.”
“Charming,” Kelsey said, with an arched brow. “But I guess understandable.”
Lucky frowned at her. “You…believe me? About—”
“I mean, it sounds pretty insane,” she admitted. “But considering that I just lived through a case where a guy held a woman hostage in a panic room in his own house under the nose of the entire PCPD and his wife—” Kelsey sipped her gin and tonic. “Not a stretch. Besides, brainwashing is a legitimate thing. Think of the Manson killers, right? And cult followers? I’m glad you got through it.”
He exhaled slowly. “Yeah. Well, I’m still working through a lot of it. Anyway, Elizabeth and I haven’t really been close since it happened.” And now was probably not the time to tell Kelsey that Lucky had slept with Elizabeth’s sister, partially because he thought it might make her finally give up any hope of them getting back together.
There really wasn’t a way to make that sound okay.
“All of that is to say that I’m glad that you and the DA’s office feel the weight of what Lansing did. I may not like Baldwin—” He chuckled when her eyes narrowed, “but you’re right. He’s done good by Carly and Elizabeth.”
“Yeah, well, my Dad used to say Scott was one of the most ethical guys he knew, but I guess anyone can change when life disappoints him. The last time my dad even saw Scott was at his wife’s funeral.”
“Yeah.” Lucky nodded. “I wasn’t living here then, but my mom used to get the news from Port Charles, and we read about it in Canada. It was pretty sad.” He hesitated. “I guess that means your dad isn’t around anymore.”
“Nope. Died in…” Kelsey sighed. “1994. Car accident. Single car, rural road. He’d been on his way home from a client meeting and the cops thought he fell asleep behind the wheel.”
“Yeah, well…he’d be proud of me, you know? And I had him for the first thirteen years of my life. That matters.” She shook her head. “How did we get so maudlin? I came in here to flirt with you.” Kelsey grinned up at him, but the sly light he’d come to look for in her eyes was absent.
“We can flirt tomorrow. I have the night shift again.” He folded his arms on the bar and leaned in just a bit towards her. “And you can stop slipping Claude tens to find out my schedule. I’ll give it to you for free.”
“I guess we’re flirting tonight, after all.” And this time, her smile reached her eyes. “Maybe, if you ever get a night off, we could try something else.”
“Let me talk to Claude and work something out.” Lucky slid the back of his fingers down her cheek. “There it is. How do you manage to smirk with only your eyes?”
“It’s one of my many skills.” She paused. “Maybe someday you’ll get to see the rest of them.”
Vista Point: Summit
Elizabeth let the summer night air wash over her as she stood at the guard rail that looked out over Lake Ontario. In the distance, she could see the hulking mass of Wyndemere rise out over the mists of Spoon Island.
“You okay?” Jason asked, resting his elbows on the rail. “You want to drive back?”
Elizabeth laughed. “You must be worried if you’re thinking about letting me drive. I’m going to take a rain check, but…I’m okay. I thought I’d be more worried about Ric, but thanks to you and Cody—and the army of security guards in my lobby—” She arched a brow. “Did you buy my new apartment building?”
Jason shrugged a shoulder. “Real estate is always a good investment. And I wanted to make sure the security was upgraded.” He straightened and then turned, leaning back against the railing. “So, if you’re not worried about Ric making bail…”
“I’m thinking about the homework assignment Gail gave me the other day,” Elizabeth confessed. “She asked me to think about the reasons I wouldn’t tell you something that happened last summer.”
Jason squinted. “What happened—”
“After you rescued me—after I got out of that crypt, you remember that I was…” Elizabeth chewed on her bottom lip. She pushed away from the railing and went down the stairs to sit on the bench. How did she put this into words so he could understand?
“You were scared,” Jason said softly, joining her on the bench. “I remember.”
“Not just scared.” Elizabeth looked at her hands in her lap, twisting her fingers together. “It was more that I was…terrified. I had panic attacks. Anxiety attacks. The night of the blackout, I was having a panic attack when Zander showed up.”
She saw his face tighten and he looked away at that name. “Elizabeth—”
“It was dark, just like the crypt,” Elizabeth murmured. “And I kept thinking someone was going to come get me. That I would open my eyes and be back in that tiny little room—I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. And Zander was there, and I just wanted that to go away.”
“We don’t have to talk about this—”
“We do, because I need you to understand what happened next.” Elizabeth turned her body to face his slightly. “When you came over the next morning, I was still trying to process what I’d done. I couldn’t—I couldn’t understand it. And then you looked at me like I was nothing.”
“I—” Jason exhaled slowly, but his shoulders were still tense. “I was hurt,” he admitted. “I know we hadn’t—”
“We hadn’t said what we both knew was true. But then I knew that I’d ruined it. And I was still having the panic attacks. I didn’t know that’s what they were. I was just scared all the time, and I—I didn’t want to be alone. So, I thought if I had ruined things with you, then I should make it count. So, I thought…I thought maybe I could find something with Zander.”
Jason hesitated. “You were having panic attacks a lot?” he asked, almost forcing the words out. “When—did they stop?”
“After the warehouse exploded, after I was shot, I stopped lying to myself and to Zander. Because I started to think I hadn’t…that maybe I hadn’t ruined everything.” She licked her lips. “I went back to the hospital for a follow up a few days after the funeral to get my stitches taken out. And I got stuck in the elevator. There was another black out. I was trapped in that little space with no light, and it was like all my nightmares coming back.”
“You—why didn’t you—” Jason closed his eyes. “You didn’t tell me because I wasn’t there to tell. I pushed you away.”
“I guess. I mean, I was trying to get you to give me a chance. And maybe if you had been there, I would have told you. I don’t know. I can’t answer that. When the power came back, Gram was there when I got out. I don’t remember what happened after that. She told me that I—I had this glazed look in my eye. Like I wasn’t even there. She took me home, and after a while, I was myself again. She brought me home a pamphlet—”
Elizabeth pulled out her small purse and took out a piece of paper that had been folded so many times it was weak at the edges and nearly in pieces. “She said she’d talked to Gail Baldwin about what I’d told her. She wanted me to go see her.”
Jason carefully unfolded the paper and his jaw clenched. “Acute stress disorder. Like…Carly.”
“Left untreated, it often develops into full-fledged Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. You know that already.”
“I—I do.” Jason looked at her. “You said you hadn’t seen Gail since before the fire—”
“I refused to go. I thought I was making headway with you.” She offered him a half smile. “It was after that night I tricked you into meeting here. When you kissed me, I thought I was—I thought if I just fixed what was wrong with me, then I wouldn’t be scared all the time. If I went into therapy because of what happened at the crypt, I knew you’d feel like you’d been right.”
“And that I would push you away again.” Jason carefully folded the pamphlet up and returned it to her. “How long—how long—”
“Gram got me through it. She got some things from Gail that I could do on my own. She talked me through panic attacks, taught me how to get myself through them. And then Zander got hurt, and I brought him to you—Gram wanted me to leave. To focus on me, but I was doing so much better by then. I was distracting myself by worrying about you.” She managed a smile, but it was a sad one. “The last panic attack I had was the night I found out the truth.”
“The night you left.”
“Yeah. That three hours I told you I waited for you to come home?” she reminded him. “I don’t really remember most of it. I—Zander and I saw it on the news, and he was pissed off. He was gone in the first hour. And then I was alone. And I—I don’t know. I guess I was scared. Or whatever. I don’t know what triggered it. But when I came out of it, I saw it had been three hours.”
“Elizabeth—” Jason clenched his hands into fists. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”
“I don’t expect you to say anything. I just—a lot of what I said and did during my panic and anxiety attacks—I honestly don’t remember. I know I said some awful things to you; I remember parts of it. But I was just trying to breathe, and I wanted you—” She closed her eyes. “No. That’s not important—”
“Yes, it is,” Jason insisted. He took her hands in his. “Tell me what you wanted me to do that night. For months, I’ve played that conversation over and over again in my head, trying to figure out what I could have done differently.”
“I thought you didn’t look back,” she whispered, her eyes burning, the chill of tears sliding down her cheeks. “I wanted you to come in, take me in your arms, and make me feel safe. But you didn’t. You came in and you looked at me like I was…like you already knew it was over. And then you said I didn’t matter—that’s what I heard you say anyway.” She exhaled on a shaky sigh. “I kept myself busy after that. I threw myself into helping Lucky. I did the exercises Gail gave me. And…I just tried not to think about it.”
Jason cupped her cheeks in his hand—almost the way he’d done eleven months earlier when they’d been here before. “And you were afraid to tell me because you already thought I saw you as weak.”
“I wanted to be strong enough to keep you,” she managed to force out. “And I was terrified I wasn’t. And when you didn’t tell me—I thought that was proof.” She closed her eyes, leaned her face into one of his hands, while his other tucked her hair behind her ears. “But I need to tell you everything that happened last year because I don’t want it between us anymore. I just want to move on with my life. With you.”
“That’s all I want, too.” He leaned forward, brushed his lips against hers. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”