Carly was seated in a corner booth, just about hidden from sight. She was poring account ledgers, trying to determine their profit since they’d opened two weeks ago. She knew all she’d have to do was ask Jason to help her with the accounting and he’d do it. But Carly was avoiding Jason like the plague.
In fact, she’d spent more and more time at the club. Now that Ric seemed to understand that he was no longer welcome down here, she considered it her only sanctuary. No one came before the club opened unless they were invited…this place was her escape, the only place she felt safe anymore.
She cursed herself when she realized she’d forgotten to carry the one in a column of numbers and now had to start nearly from scratch. She started to erase the numbers, but the eraser on her pencil was crappy and she could barely read the writing now. Frustrated, she snapped the pencil and hurled the pieces across the room.
Nothing was working. Nothing was making it go away. Her excuse about being angry with Sonny about the Brenda situation was beginning to wear thin. She knew Sonny was doing his best to be patient, but eventually, he’d start pushing her. And eventually Carly would break.
She still saw Ric when she’d stop in for a cup of coffee at Kelly’s or when she’d leave the club through the Kelly’s entrance. He seemed to be a permanent fixture at the counter, speaking with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth. Carly sighed and rested her head in her hands, rubbing her temples, trying to ease the headache that had crept over her. She couldn’t even think about the brunette in passing without having an overwhelming wave of guilt nearly crushing her. She’d heard the gossip in Kelly’s that she and Ric were on the outs, and she’d cheered when she’d realized that it was true. She’d felt vindicated–released from her obligation as a woman to tell Elizabeth about Ric.
And then she’d noticed Ric hanging out at the counter by Elizabeth, trying to talk to her, get back into her good graces. She’d overheard her mother and one of waitresses talking about how sweet it was that Elizabeth finally had someone who was going to put her first and was actually trying to show her that he cared.
Curious, Carly had butted into the conversation and pressed her mother for more details. Bobbie had been reluctant to divulge anything, but Carly had pulled the story out of her. She’d gotten Elizabeth’s version of leaving the penthouse and the rest of the story about her relationship with Jason.
And it’d made Carly realize just how stupid her best friend could be when it came to the women in his life.
She was worried now that Elizabeth, feeling lonely, would ignore her instincts and let Ric back in. She was worried about the lengths Ric might go to be with Elizabeth. She was worried about Sonny finding out and leaving her. She was worried that Jason would no longer care about her when he discovered that she’d cheated on his best friend.
It seemed to Carly that she found something new to worry about every day and sometimes she relished it. Because when she was concentrating on a consequence of that night with Ric, she wasn’t actually thinking about that night with Ric.
Footsteps on the stairs caught her attention. She sighed in relief when she realized the footsteps were not those of Ric or Sonny, they were the heavy boots of Jason.
He entered the club and headed right for her. He didn’t speak until he’d slid into the seat across from her in the booth.
“Jason,” she murmured, closing the account ledger.
“Sonny’s worried about you,” Jason said without any preamble. His eyes softened. “I’m worried about you.”
“Why?” she asked quietly. She sat back in the booth and tilted her head up to look at the ceiling. “Have I done something lately?”
“No.” Jason sighed. “Carly, I know you. I know when something’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong, I guess,” Carly replied. “I’m just reevaluating my life.” She rested her chin on her hand, propping her elbow on the table. “You ever do that? Take a good look at your life and wonder where you went wrong?”
Jason frowned and leaned forward. “Carly–”
“I think that the best time in my life was right after you came home,” Carly decided, speaking over him. “I had Sonny back, the worst secret I was keeping was about Alexis’s pregnancy, you were home, Michael was happy…”
“It was a good time,” Jason agreed. “But things aren’t so bad now, are they?” He leaned forward, tried to meet her eyes. “You’ve still got Sonny, I’m still here…” He trailed off. “Carly, what’s going on? I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on.”
“Are you happy?” she asked, ignoring his question.
“I mean it, Jason,” Carly interrupted. “I really want to know. Are you happy?”
Jason sighed. “Yeah, sure. I’m happy.”
Carly smiled sadly. “You know what’s funny? You expect me to spill my guts about whatever it is you think I’m not telling you or Sonny…and neither of you deem it necessary to trust me.” She sighed. “Some friendship we share, huh?”
“Carly, what do you want me to say?” he asked pointedly. “That, no, I’m not happy? That I hate what my friendship with Sonny has become, that even my job isn’t enough to satisfy me anymore, or that sometimes I have trouble looking at myself in the mirror?”
Carly looked at him, stunned. Jason was almost never that forthcoming with his feelings. There’d been that one time before the trial…but she’d chalked it up to stress. Now that she thought about it…now that she really took a good look at him, she saw the tense set of his shoulders, the guarded look in his eyes, the lines around his eyes. She tried to think back to a time when none of that was visible and she found herself coming up empty. Had she been so selfish she’d never noticed Jason’s misery?
“I’ve made mistakes,” Carly said quietly. “But sometimes I even surprise myself with the ability I have to screw up my own life.” She sighed and shook her head. “Sonny…he really feels bad, you know?”
“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “He feels bad.”
“But he also has no idea what he did wrong,” Carly continued. “That’s something I’ve never liked about him. His ability to make everything about him. Your relationship with Courtney? Did you know that you did it to betray him?” Carly asked. “That’s what he thinks. When you went to police to find Elizabeth, that was a betrayal to him. Had nothing to do with finding Elizabeth.” Carly eyed him. “Do you miss her?”
Jason frowned, and narrowed his eyes. “Miss who?” he asked, trying to keep up with the conversation.
“Elizabeth,” Carly clarified. “Do you miss her?”
Jason sighed. “We’re not going to do this Carly. I came to talk about you–”
“I’m sick of talking about myself, talking to myself, thinking about myself…I’m just sick of it. I want to talk about you,” Carly cut in. “Will you let me try to be a friend to you? Just once?”
Jason hesitated and looked away. “Yeah, I miss her,” he said finally. “But so what? That doesn’t change anything. She’s still gone and…” he shrugged. “It’s over.”
“You know…she thought you were cheating on her,” Carly told him. “Back when she lived in the penthouse and we were all pretending Sonny was dead.”
Jason just stared at her, unable to find words to articulate what he was thinking. Carly continued. “She was worried about you, you know? When I told her Sonny was dead, her first thought was to find you. Make sure you were okay. And then when you never came home…and you never called her…and then she found the lipstick…”
“I can’t believe…” Jason shook his head. “I thought she knew me better than that.”
“I set her straight. Told her there were things going on that you couldn’t talk about, and that she should just be patient and wait for you to come to her,” Carly replied. “But the thought was there. And then when you started guarding Courtney all the time…”
“She must have thought the worst when she found out about us being together,” Jason said quietly.
“Yeah, I guess she could almost see it as all her wild and crazy ideas as having some merit,” Carly said. “Look, I don’t even know why I brought it up. I guess…I don’t know. I wanted you to realize that while you were with Sonny and Brenda and all…that Elizabeth wasn’t just sitting around the penthouse like some doll. She had real thoughts and feelings.” Carly shrugged. “And you hurt them.”
Jason would have been amused at Carly’s defense of Elizabeth if her words hadn’t rung true. “I thought you didn’t like Elizabeth.”
“I don’t,” Carly replied. “But you can respect someone and not like them. I’m not wild about her just walking out on you and I know she’s done so much to hurt you…but I guess I’ve just let myself remember that she’s done some good for you. And maybe she needed to walk out.”
“Why do you say that?” Jason asked, almost curious.
“Maybe she needed to remind herself that she still had some self-respect.” Carly smirked. “It’s hard when the men we love treat us like we’re fragile and that we’re precious little dolls that serve no other purpose but to be there when you get home. Like we’re not real people with thoughts and feelings and that we have lives apart from you.”
“You’re not talking about Elizabeth anymore, are you?” Jason asked.
“No. I guess I’m not.” Carly sighed again. “Jason, I’ve heard some gossip about her. Just some and I was wondering it was true.”
“I heard that she was…” Carly took a deep breath. “I heard that she was raped when she was younger.”
Jason sucked in a sharp breath and he didn’t say anything at first. Finally, he asked, “Why? Why do you want to know?”
“I don’t know. I guess…there are things about her lately that making me form a different opinion about her. And that’s what I heard about her. I guess…” she sighed. “It’s hard to think that it can happen to a person that you know. That you talk to and fight with. That someone can survive that and be normal. So, it’s true, isn’t it?”
“We never really talked about it,” Jason said. “It happened long before we became friends and I guess…it was almost a separate part of her life. Does it matter?”
“I guess not,” Carly said, even though it did. Having confirmation of it just made the knot in her stomach all the more prominent and painful. She slid out of the booth and grabbed the account ledger. “I guess I’m going to go home now.”
Jason stood up as well. “Why don’t we go to Jake’s?” he suggested. “Shoot some pool?”
Carly smiled, the first genuine smile in nearly two weeks. “That sounds great.”
Carly entered through the diner that morning, intent on getting a cup of coffee and some breakfast before she tackled the account books again. Her night at Jake’s had served its purpose–she and Jason were friends again and she’d smiled and laughed when she’d managed to beat him at pool.
She’d gone home that night, but instead of joining Sonny in their large king-sized bed, she’d gone into the guest room and fallen asleep there. Sonny was already gone when she woke up, and she found herself wondering what Sonny thought when he’d realized she’d slept in a different room.
She wondered if Sonny thought she was drawing the lines in the sand, so to speak. Letting him know that their marriage was in serious trouble. And she knew that it was. But it had next to nothing to do with Sonny’s simple kiss with Brenda.
She pushed all thoughts of it out of her head and headed for the counter. She took a seat and set her purse on the top of the counter. She couldn’t help but overhear Penny and Martie, two of the other waitresses whispering.
“He sent her a dozen lilies!” Penny squealed. “He’s so romantic, I just know Lizzie’s going to take him back.”
“I don’t know,” Martie murmured. “If I were her, I’d hold out for Jason Morgan.”
Penny snorted. “You don’t have the first clue. When the last time he was in here for Lizzie, huh? He moved on to that ditz, Courtney. Doesn’t know a good thing when he has it. Lansing, however, has brought flowers for the past two weeks, daily. A different kind every day. Tulips, lilies, posies, marigolds…he’s gone out of his way to prove how much he cares about her. Looks aren’t everything, Martie, actions have to count, too.”
“I guess,” Martie sighed. “It’s just…well, I’ve never seen her look at him even half the way she looked at Jason Morgan.”
“You’re too romantic, Martie. Give Ric Lansing another week. He’ll have her eating out of the palm of his hand,” Penny predicted.
Carly frowned. She didn’t like the sound of that. She leaned forward. “Penny.”
Penny frowned and looked over at her. “Oh, Mrs. Corinthos. I am so sorry, I didn’t see you there. Can I get you anything?”
Normally, Carly would have jumped down Penny’s throat about ignoring her, but she nodded. “Yeah, coffee and some wheat toast. Does Elizabeth Webber work today?”
Penny nodded. She poured a cup of coffee and set it in front of Carly, looking at her oddly. “Yeah, she’s due in at noon. Why?”
“Can you ask her to drop in downstairs?” Carly asked. “I need to talk to her…” she hesitated before making her decision. “I need someone to take over Courtney’s hostess job and I know she’s reliable. So will you tell her?”
“Yeah,” Penny nodded. “Sure thing, Mrs. Corinthos.”
It was one in the afternoon before Elizabeth came downstairs. She’d had to wait until the lunch rush calmed down and she could take her break. When Penny had relayed Carly’s message, she’d been stunned to say the least. She and Carly had never gotten along, and the idea of working with her made her cringe. She’d find a way to turn her down but try and be nice about it.
“Carly?” Elizabeth called, stopping at the entrance.
Carly slid out from the booth where she’d been wrestling with the accounts again. “Elizabeth, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Penny told me you wanted me to take over Courtney’s job,” Elizabeth said, hesitantly. “It’s nice of you to offer–”
“That’s part of the reason,” Carly nodded, cutting her off. “But there’s something I need to tell you.”
Elizabeth sighed and rubbed her temples. “Is this another attack because of the way I treated Jason?” she asked wearily. “Because I’m really not up for it.”
“No, it’s not. This has nothing to do with Jason,” Carly replied. She gestured towards one of the empty tables. “Would you sit please?”
Her curiosity piqued, Elizabeth pulled out a chair and sat down. Carly took a seat across from her and nervously wrung her hands. “I thought about not telling you,” Carly began. “I really considered it and part me of was okay with it. I never thought you were stupid, so I assumed you’d be able to take care of yourself.”
Elizabeth frowned and leaned forward. “Carly, is everything okay?”
“And I thought there was a possibility that you might not even believe me. I mean, why should you? Everyone knows I’m the town slut, what’s my word good for, right?” Carly bit her lip and plunged on, knowing that she was making little or no sense but unable to stop speaking just the same. “But I just can’t sit here and stand by while this continues. I would never be able to forgive myself if anything happened to you and I know how Jason feels about you and I know if he knew I could have stopped it, he’d hate me forever–”
“Carly, what happened?” Elizabeth asked forcefully, now terribly worried about her nemesis. Carly’s behavior was off–even for her. Something dreadful had happened and she could see Carly’s struggle was very clearly driving her crazy. “Just tell me.”
“Okay,” Carly replied. She closed her eyes and laid her hands flat on the table. “The night the club opened…I have every reason to believe that someone slipped something into my drink. I became very dizzy and I don’t remember anything after that. The next morning, I woke up and I was in bed with someone.”
Elizabeth felt nauseous as she suddenly had a very terrible feeling where this was going. She swallowed hard. “It was Ric,” she breathed.
Carly nodded, keeping her eyes tightly shut. “I don’t remember going upstairs with him and I don’t remember anything beyond that. When I woke up, I was…I couldn’t believe that it had happened. Ric…he told me that I’d come on to him and that I hadn’t really given him a choice.”
Elizabeth felt very numb…almost like she was dead inside. “He told you that.”
“I don’t know, maybe he’s telling the truth. But I can’t…I can’t imagine myself doing that–I love Sonny, Elizabeth. I know you don’t believe me, but I can’t believe I would betray Sonny like that–”
“I believe you,” Elizabeth said softly. Carly’s eyes flew open and she stared at the brunette. “I believe you,” she repeated. “He took advantage of you.”
Carly opened her mouth, but found herself unable to speak. She’d never considered the possibility that Elizabeth would not only believe her, but that she’d take her side.
“He took advantage of you at a time when you were in no position to say no.” Elizabeth’s eyes filled with tears and she struggled to continue. “He raped you.”
Carly hadn’t wanted to say it to herself, hadn’t wanted to put the blame squarely on Ric.
But she maybe she should. Maybe…she hadn’t done anything wrong. After all, she’d put her trust into someone she’d considered a friend.
Carly nodded, her own eyes glossy. “Yeah. I guess he did.”