July 29, 2015

When you’ve been fighting for it all your life
You’ve been struggling to make things right
That’s how a superhero learns to fly
Every day, every hour, turn the pain into power

I’ve been singing this song in my head for like three straight days. I hope it’s your earworm now. Ha.

The Best Thing, Chapter 25 has been posted. The Jason/Elizabeth stuff in this chapter is one of my favorites I’ve written. While this story is difficult sometimes, I think overall, some of my personal best Liason is here, so I hope you guys like this chapter as much as I do.

I’m going to the Philly Zoo with my mother, my aunt, my sister, my sister-in-law, and five children under the age of 5. So…say a prayer for me.

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series The Best Thing: Mercy

As the smoke and mirrors start to fade away
And we’re all we’ve got so let’s hold on tight
To the dreams that came before the fight
We were living smoke and mirrors anyway

Smoke and Mirrors, Lifehouse


Friday, August 19, 2005

Morgan Penthouse: Jason’s Office

 “An accident,” Jason repeated as he glanced through the initial report Johnny handed him. “They didn’t find any signs of arson?”

“No.” The other man leaned back in the chair they’d pulled in from the kitchen, one leg over his knee. “And believe me, between Scorpio and Lansing, they were looking. There’s no sign of accelerants. They’re leaning towards an electrical short as a source. Some sparks ignited on the main floor. The men didn’t see the flames until that room was engulfed.”

An accident. He could deal with that. He could work with that. He would show this report to Sonny and things could ease back. He hadn’t been able to pin Sonny down all week, and the truth be told, with Max tailing him, Jason had avoided his partner, not wanting to have the conversation they both knew they had to have.

“All right. As long as the police don’t change their opinions, I think we can relax there.” Jason set the report aside. He looked to Johnny. “I want you and the warehouse crew working with Bernie to get the new warehouse situated. I want everything up to code, I want the best security. I’m getting tired of replacing warehouses.”

It was their third warehouse in five years to go up in flames. This was getting ridiculous.

“You got it, Jase.”

They both turned their attention to Max who had remained uncharacteristically silent so far this morning. “Max?”

“Sonny’s…” The tall, brawny man scrubbed a hand over his face. “I don’t know how to describe it, Jase. He either knows I’m following him or I’m getting bad at this job, because I’ve lost him maybe once nearly every day. Not for long, but damn if I can’t figure out how it’s happening.”

Sonny disappearing for stretches of time during the same period Jason couldn’t put his hands on Johnny Zacchara did not bode well.

“If he knows you’re on him, then it’s time to add someone else to cover the bases. Pull whatever guy Francis thinks is best and add him to the detail. I need eyes and ears on Sonny at all times, Max.”

“I know, I know. I got Rocco on the door now while Sonny’s home and with him when he leaves, but even Rocco can’t ignore an order to leave him alone. It’s not the way this works.”

“I know.” Jason leaned back. “We’ll figure something else out, but for now, Max, I need you to make this happen.”

And with that, Sonny’s guard was dismissed.

“O’Brien,” Jason said, “don’t start with me right now.”

“I’m not,” Johnny said. “You and me, we started in this business around the same time. You know that, right? So some of the guys have approached me.” When Jason glared at him, Johnny shook his head. “I’m not giving you names. But they want a change and they looked to me. You can’t lose the trust of the men who work in this organization, Jason, by pussy footing around. I put them off. I told them that until we got Junior under wraps and packed off to Daddy, drawing any more attention to our troubles with a power play would be suicide.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I appreciate that, Johnny.” A mutiny was the last thing he needed right now.

“Are Elizabeth and the kids okay with us coming in and out of here so much this week?” Johnny asked. “I don’t see them around much.”

Jason’s shoulders tightened. He did not want to talk about the tension and stress that permeated his home these days. “They’re fine. Nora keeps the kids in the playroom upstairs and takes them to the park. Elizabeth works out of her studio most of the time. They know it’s temporary.” He frowned when Johnny appeared to hesitate. “What?”

“It’s not temporary, Jase.” Johnny rose to his feet. “I mean, you know that, right? We’ll find another place to meet often, but this…the level of responsibility you’re taking on? It’s just the beginning. Does she know that? Is that what she even signed on for?”

“You can go now,” Jason responded blandly.

For once, Johnny shut his mouth and left without another harsh reminder of how quickly things had unraveled. If Jason had thought this last year was difficult—trying to juggle his deteriorating partnership with Sonny, building a life with Elizabeth—it was nothing compared to this last week. He was no longer able to support the illusion that Sonny was in control.

He didn’t want the power, he never had, but he might have to take it in order to protect everyone else.

Wyndemere: Sitting Room

 Emily was smiling when she saw Elizabeth come through the door to her sitting room. “I’m so glad you’re finally here!”

Elizabeth managed a weak laugh as her friend hugged her tightly. “I came as soon as you called. You said it was urgent.” She’d dropped her brush, her paints, everything in order to race to the boat launch.

“Oh.” Emily colored a bit as they both sat on the sofa. “I’m sorry, Liz. I should have thought—I mean, I think it’s urgent, but it’s not in the sense of what Jason might mean.” She took Elizabeth’s hands in hers. “I just…I wanted to tell you. And I wanted to tell you now, and immediately, because I want some brightness in our life.”

And didn’t Elizabeth need that quite desperately? “Emily, what’s going on?”

“I’m pregnant!”

The words seemed to explode out of Emily’s mouth like a comet shooting across the sky. She laughed as she said them, drawing her hands back to touch her flat abdomen. “I’m only six weeks along, but I’m having a baby!”

“Oh…” Elizabeth pressed her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God. Emily. Em.” She leaned forward and hugged her best friend with all the strength she could muster. “Oh, my God. I can’t believe it. I didn’t even know you were trying!”

“Since the wedding. Nikolas was a bit apprehensive—you know how badly Cassadines are with raising kids, but I told him I didn’t want to wait a single moment longer.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I wanted to catch up to you. I didn’t want so much space between our kids. Two years is an eternity!”

“Oh, Emily…” Tears stung her eyes, and she hugged her again. “I love you so much. I’m so thrilled for you, what incredible news!”

“I’m due in late March, early April or so, according to Dr. Lee at the hospital.” Emily beamed. “I told my mother when I found out, because you know, Mom, and she’s just like—if sunbeams and rainbows could emerge from this woman, I think they would. She’s over the moon about having three grandchildren.”

Elizabeth’s smile faltered at the first time, though she appreciated the way Monica had embraced her son. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with Evie, Em.”

Emily pursed her lips. “I know things have been a bit tough this week with that awful fire, but Nikolas said the fire report said it was an accident.” She hesitated. “That helps, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t know.” Elizabeth rose and walked towards the large windows overlooking the stables. “I’m sorry I said anything, Em, really. This is your day—”

“Hey, we had my moment. Now I want to talk to you.” Emily stood. “Things are okay, aren’t they? I mean, I know about Audrey—”

Elizabeth closed her eyes. “A week ago, I was floating on air,” she murmured. “Everything was coming together for me. You know? I had this incredible career with the prospect of even more success. I have this wonderful little boy who makes everything worth it. I have wonderful friends, amazing family.” She turned, opening her eyes. “And I had Jason, this unbelievable man who loved me, who wants my son. And Sonny—Sonny was like his old self. It was perfect.”

“Most of that is still true,” Emily said, but her tone was hesitant. “Isn’t it? Is Sonny…is he sliding again?”

“I think so, but Jason hasn’t said anything.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “He was fine on Friday night, but by Sunday, I could see Jason was having doubts about it lasting. He said Sonny is only being treated for depression.”

“Hell.” Emily’s mouth twisted. “That’s a recipe for disaster.”

“And then, Monday morning—” Elizabeth twisted her fingers together. “Sonny called Jason at three about the fire. But he had Max calling him on the landline, and Jason had only missed one ring—he answered it on the second, but it wasn’t fast enough. By the time Jason answered it, Sonny was already pounding at our door. I could hear Max and Milo trying to hold him back, but he burst through the door, shouting Jason’s name. He was out of control, Em. The kids were crying, I couldn’t get them settled down—”

“Well, the fire was upsetting…” Emily trailed off. “But I get it, it must have been scary.”

“And Jason’s working all the time. I’m not complaining about that,” she added in a rush of breath. “I’m just—I’m confused. I know Jason has always done a lot of the delegating, a lot of the go between stuff, but it’s different, Emily. He’s working out of the penthouse because the warehouse is gone, and that’s fine. Nora keeps the kids out of the way, and I’m at the studio or my grandmother’s, but I—I don’t think it’s temporary.”

Emily sat on the sofa, her dark eyes wide. “He’s going to take over.”

“I don’t know.” Elizabeth brought her hand to her mouth, bit on her fingernail, her other hand at her waist. “He’s not talking to me. He’s working all hours of the night, and I’m dividing my time between my studio, the kids, and my grandmother—” She closed her eyes. “It’s slipping away from me, Emily. Just like before.”

“Hey.” Emily took her hand and tugged her down. “Hey. Listen. Tell me what you’re thinking. What’s like before?”

Elizabeth could hardly breathe now that she had said the horrible words she had been holding in for days. “Before. When we tried.  There was stuff going on with the business then, and Sonny was going through this. That’s when he faked his death. Jason lied to me about Sonny being dead, and I was so angry. He wasn’t talking to me, he wasn’t coming home. It was like I didn’t matter, that I wasn’t important enough. And when I found out, I just—I exploded.”

She bit her lip. “Carly, who had turned Sonny into the Feds a year earlier, she got to know the plan, but not me. I hid Jason while he was shot, you know? I sacrificed friendships and my reputation to keep him safe, but none of that mattered. I felt worthless. Unimportant. Unloved. So I walked.”

“Elizabeth…” Emily murmured. “I didn’t—”

“Jason told me earlier this year that Sonny was on the verge of a breakdown during that period—that he’d been questioning his loyalty and his decisions. That Sonny had wanted to keep me in the dark, so Jason agreed to preserve the peace. And I let it go when he told me, because I could see Jason hadn’t seen it as choosing Sonny over me. But I did.”

“And still do, obviously.” Emily tilted her head. “Do you think he’s going to choose Sonny again?”

“I don’t know, because I don’t know what’s going on,” Elizabeth replied. “And I can’t push him. He’ll just tell me there are things I can’t know, like he did before. Emily, I don’t care if Jason ends up in charge. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t think that was a possibility, but…”

“You don’t want to be the last one to know again.” Emily sighed. “I’m so sorry—”

“No, I’m sorry.” Elizabeth shook her head. “I’m—I’m just tired, you know? It’s been a rough week, and I’m sure with the fire being an accident, things will be okay. It’s fine, Em.”

“It’s not.” Emily tightened her grip on Elizabeth’s hands, preventing her from standing. “And you get to feel the way you feel. I get it.  I wasn’t here that last time, but I can see the parallels. A dangerous business situation, Sonny’s going off the rails, and you and Jason are trying to juggle a life together. You’d be an idiot if you didn’t feel some of the same doubts.”

She leaned forward. “You need to vent, you need to talk about this to me. Because I’ll talk you through it. Elizabeth, maybe there are similarities, but you know there are very important differences.”

When Elizabeth hesitated, Emily pressed her point. “You know there are,” she repeated. “And I want you to list them, so you can reassure yourself that is not the crisis you’re building it up to be.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath. “We’re engaged,” she said softly. “And we were just…barely starting something then. We’ve made promises, said things we’ve never said before.”

“Good. What else?”

“He’s already started the paperwork to adopt Cameron, and I know that’s not a decision he’d take lightly. I know he loves my son.”

Some of the tightness in her chest was starting to dissipate. “And until this week, he’s been brutally honest about Sonny’s condition, even about some of the problems he’s been facing at work. I didn’t know what Jason was facing the last time. I never would have walked out if I’d known Sonny’s issues back then.”

“Exactly, Liz.” Emily squeezed her hands once more before releasing them. “You and Jason are stronger now. You weren’t then. Jason’s going through a lot right now, and so are you. The last thing either one of you needs is doubts about what the other is thinking. Do you think if you’ve seen the parallels, Jason hasn’t?”

“He can’t think—” Elizabeth looked at her friend. “I would never leave him. I’m just—scared of what this is all going to mean. Of what’s going to change. But I would never walk out because of his job. It was never about what he does.”

She closed her eyes. “I need to talk to him. I need to assure him that I’m here. I told him that before. I said that I was in it, that I mattered. But then I walked away from him. I won’t make that mistake again.”

“Good. We have that established.” Emily hesitated. “About Sonny. I don’t—if he’s triggered a manic part of the disorder, then we’re in for a bumpy ride. Do you think that’s happening? Or is this just a setback?”

“I don’t know,” Elizabeth replied. “I just—” She closed her eyes. “I told Carly everything a few days ago, but it didn’t change anything. She just has something else to blame Jason for. She seems to think if we handed Evie back to Sonny, this would all stop.”

“It’s not Evie’s job to fix Sonny,” Emily said, bristling. “Maybe Jason made mistakes, but his mistakes have kept that little girl in a safe and calm environment for the last year. Can we say that about Michael and Morgan?”

“I’m just—I’m scared, Emily. Everything is falling apart. I’m not—I know that if Jason and I are honest with one another, we can get through it, but that doesn’t mean what’s in front of us isn’t terrifying.”

“It’ll be okay, Liz.” But Emily didn’t look convinced.

Harborview Towers: Hallway

Jason stepped out of the elevator at the same time Carly and her guard were stepping on. He put his hand on the door to keep it from closing. “Carly. I’ve been trying to catch you for a few days.”

“Oh?” The blonde arched a brow. “That’s a change from the last year or so, isn’t it, Jase?”

Jason hesitated. “Carly—”

“I know all about Sonny’s supposed mental illness.” Carly lifted her chin. “Did you tell him he was crazy so you could keep Evie? He thinks he’s depressed, but I know better. I read those stupid pamphlets your girlfriend gave me. Sonny’s always been obsessed with power, with control. That doesn’t make him crazy.”

“No,” Jason said slowly, realizing Elizabeth had gone ahead and spoke to Carly as they had planned. “No, that’s not what we’re saying. Carly, you know how Sonny gets—” He flicked his eyes to her guard, but as it was Eddie, one of their long-time regulars, he felt comfortable continuing. “I think he’s getting worse—”

“You know how to make this stop, Jason,” Carly said. She pushed his hand clear of the doors. “You don’t want to do it. You’re being selfish, Jason, and you’re destroying all of us in the process.”

The doors slid closed, leaving him standing in the hallway.

Morgan Penthouse: Master Bedroom

By the time Jason left his office that night, it was close to midnight. The kids had been in bed for hours, and Elizabeth should also have been sleep by then.

But she was sitting up in bed, the bedside lamp still burning, and a sketchpad in her lap. “Hey.” She set her pad and pencil on the night stand. “I was hoping you would come to bed soon.”

“You’re still up.” Jason sat on the edge of the bed next to her, drinking her in. The last moment of peace, of tranquility had been in this room, five days earlier, just before the fire.

The fatigue had seeped into his bones, but he somehow knew she hadn’t just waited up to say good night. “Elizabeth…”

“I love you,” she told him. “And I love you whether you’re doing whatever you normally do or if you end up doing whatever Sonny is supposed to do.” She sat up, tucking her knees underneath her. “But you can’t keep me in the dark.”

“I wasn’t—” He sighed and tilted his head to the ceiling. “I didn’t mean to. I’m always going to want to protect you from this life, from the filth, from the violence. I’m sorry, but that’s just how it is.”

“And I get that.” She touched his shoulder. “But Jason, you can’t tell me that under normal circumstances, in situations like this, you would be handling everything from your own home, and not Sonny’s. I haven’t seen him once, which likely means he hasn’t been here at all. You’re telling me that would be normal procedure? For him not to be involved?”

He wanted to lay in bed, look at the ceiling and just listen to her breathe as she slept. Was that too much to ask?

But she was right. Even if the situation of working out of the penthouse was temporary, it wasn’t the way things would run if Sonny were still able to do it himself.

And she deserved to know the changes on the horizon. And for her own safety, she deserved to know the risks they faced if things couldn’t be controlled.

“No, it’s not,” he answered finally. He kicked off his boots, so that he could sit on the bed and face her. “You remember Johnny Zacchara? You met him at your showing in the winter.”

“I do. You said he wasn’t really friend or foe, but his father’s lawyer was Ric’s father.” Elizabeth tilted her head. “Has that changed?”

“No, but he’s—” Jason exhaled. “I told you a few months ago about a guy Sonny suspected of being behind some minor issues. That’s Zacchara. He’s been hanging around town for the better part of a year, probably longer before he came on our radar. He’s known for hanging out in music clubs and galleries. We think he met his girlfriend here at Luke’s. He’s around more now because of her.”

“And his being around makes Sonny more suspicious though he’s not done anything to warrant it.” Elizabeth nodded. “Okay.”

“He’s not really the problem,” Jason continued. “It’s his father. Anthony Zacchara.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “He’s…dangerous in a way that I can’t really explain. He’s insane. And I don’t mean that lightly. He has no principles, no boundaries. He’s completely ruthless and operates on pure fear. He is not someone we want against us.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “Okay. I get that. So his son is hanging around, but you can’t do anything about it because the father will declare war. Do you think he or his father had something to do with the fire?”

“No.” Jason shook his head. “No, we’ve never had an inkling that Zacchara looks at us any more than an annoyance. He doesn’t care for Sonny, though that’s probably due more to Trevor Lansing’s influence. Zacchara’s ruthless, but he’s not stupid. He doesn’t start wars for the hell of it. When he comes after you, it’s because you deserve it.”

Elizabeth frowned. “I don’t understand. If Anthony Zacchara doesn’t have an issue with you, and Johnny Zacchara didn’t do anything, then—”

“Sonny has had Johnny in his sights for months. I’ve been able to stave him off by keeping a guy on him, but Sonny can’t let it go. And the morning of the fire, he—” Jason looked away. “I sent men to pull Johnny in so I could ship him to his father, or just get him the hell out of town, but—”

Her face changed and he knew she understood. “Oh, God, did something happen to him? He seemed so nice.”

“I don’t know,” Jason admitted. “We’re looking for him. And we hope not. Maybe he saw the fire, maybe he’s not so stupid. Maybe he’s decided to lay low. I don’t know. The thing is…”

“It’s possible Sonny put everyone in danger if he did something to Johnny Zacchara,” Elizabeth said softly. “And someone who is capable of that kind of thing isn’t exactly inspiring a lot of trust and loyalty.”

“It’s not just my family in danger if Anthony Zacchara comes after us for this,” Jason said, hating that he was exposing her to this world, but she had to know the stakes. Had to make informed decisions. “It’s the lives of every man who works for us and their families. If something happens to his son in Port Charles, Anthony Zacchara isn’t going to wait for me to deal with it myself. He’ll burn the city to the ground. He won’t care about collateral damage.”

“Jason…” Elizabeth drew her knees up in front of her and waited a moment. “I want Sonny to be okay, you know that. I tried to make that happen. And I’ve tried not to push you when it comes to him.”

“You haven’t. Elizabeth—”

“But at some point, we’re going to have to decide where we draw the line. Sonny is ill. If this happened, if he put us all in danger without proof, without a reason, then I don’t—” She bit her lip. “I can’t live in a world where he has access to this kind of power and can do this kind of damage. That’s…I’m not saying I would leave you, I’m just—”

He put a hand on her knee, and she stopped talking. “And I can’t live in a world where Sonny’s mistakes cost lives,” Jason said quietly. “Maybe I can put out the fires this time, and maybe we can fix this. But I don’t know if it should go back to the way it was. If at any point, Sonny’s illness, whatever is, puts the people that matter to me at risk—or anyone else. I’ve been accused of putting my head in the sand, of ignoring what’s right in front of me.”

She sighed. “Jason—”

“But that’s not an option anymore, and I know that. I chose protecting Sonny over what was right for us once.” She looked away at that reminder, and he knew he hadn’t been wrong to suspect the parallels had been on her mind as well.  “I’m not going to do it again. Because I can’t protect Sonny anymore.”

“Jason, I’m so sorry…” A tear slid down her cheek. “I hate this. I hate it all. I hate even suggesting you have to choose, because I love him, too, and I want him to be okay. I don’t want him to struggle, and maybe if he were anyone else dealing with this disorder, we could muddle through, but he’s not. He’s Sonny Corinthos—”

“It’s not a choice between you and Sonny,” Jason interrupted. “Pretending it is just makes it sound like if we kept protecting him, things would be okay. We tried that once, Elizabeth. I chose protecting him and the status quo, and you decided you couldn’t live with it.”

“If you had told me what he was facing…” Elizabeth sighed. “I like to think I would been able to deal with, but I don’t know.”

“It didn’t change anything. We’re right back where we started, and no one would blame you if you took your son and ran. Because I just—” His chest was tight. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

“If I were to leave you,” Elizabeth said slowly, “it wouldn’t change the situation. You would still be here. Evie would still be here. And so would Michael and Morgan.”

She met his eyes. “It’s not on the table, Jason. I don’t know if you were talking hypothetically or giving me an out. I don’t want it. The situation doesn’t change for anyone I love just because I walk away from it. I didn’t see that that before, but I’m not that scared little girl. I’m here, I’m in it.” Another tear slid down her cheek. “And so are you. And we count. Whatever you have to choose going forward, nothing between us changes. Because I love you. And I know that you love me. Whatever you face, take that with you.”

He leaned down, resting his forehead against her knees. Because he didn’t know he’d needed this. That he’d needed to hear her promise, her oath.

Jason thought he could face anything if he had Elizabeth standing behind him, and now he was convinced she would be.

“I love you,” he managed to say. He leaned forward, her legs falling to the side as he covered her, drawing her into a fierce and possessive kiss. “And I am never going to let you regret staying.”

“I couldn’t,” she murmured against his lips. “We were always going to end back here, Jason. And there’s nowhere else I would rather be.”

July 28, 2015

It’s that time again! We’re two chapters away from the ending of All We Are, and I’ll have the ebook ready by Friday, so the giveaway will run from today until Saturday.  Here’s how it’ll work

10 Entries – 1 winner

20 Entries – 2 winners

30 Entries – 3 winners

So the more people who enter, the more books I’ll email. So, in order to enter: Comment on this post and my plugin will randomly select a winner. Good luck!

Just a few ramblings from me.

One, I updated Chapter 14 and Chapter 15 of All We Are with a few corrections thanks to the ever fabulous Cora 🙂

Two, I added three chapters to Tangle as well as two of the many slideshows I created in 2008. Head over to the Tangle story page for all of those updates.

I will be rewriting Tangle as Feels Like Home, and I’m aiming for a late Fall, early Winter launch of that story.  However, there is some unreleased material for the old version of Tangle. A full chapter and a few scenes from another one that I never posted–you guys will be getting that as well as full outlines for the final few chapters. You’ll know how I intended the old story to end.

 

This entry is part 6 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

July 2009

Morgan House: Guest Bedroom

Jason leaned against the doorjamb and watched his wife soak the paint roller in the light pink paint and begin to roll it over the white coat that currently adorned the walls. “What exactly are you doing?”

Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder and smiled. “I’m painting.”

“I can see,” he replied soberly. “What made you get up this morning and decide to paint?”

“Well…” Elizabeth soaked the roller again and continued plying the wall. “I won’t be able to paint it once I’m actually pregnant. Paint fumes and everything.” She wrinkled her nose and he grinned. She looked like a little kid, dressed in a pair of paint-stained overalls and a tight black tank top. Her dark hair was swept off her face in a messy bun and a bandana was wrapped around her head to keep the paint from dripping into her hair.

“I can hire someone to do it,” Jason said. “Or I can get Morgan over here. You know, Cam wouldn’t mind attempting to help. He’d probably get a kick out of it. They’re both old enough to help out.

“But I want to do it,” Elizabeth insisted. “I couldn’t do it for Cameron or Jake, I was too stressed and I wasn’t sure about my marriage with either of them. This baby will be conceived and nurtured until birth in the best environment possible.” She set the paint roller down and crossed to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. He was going to be covered in pink paint when she pulled away but he couldn’t care about that now. “I love you so much and I just know our next child is going to grow up so happy, from the very start. She’ll know who her mother is, she’ll know who her father is and there will never be a moment of doubt in her head.”

“I can’t argue with that.” He kissed the tip of her nose. “So why are you sure it will be a girl? You’re not even pregnant yet.”

“I know.” Elizabeth pulled away and resumed her efforts. “But I just know it’s going to be a girl. I can feel it. I love my boys and you know I’d love another boy with all of my heart, but I really want a girl.” She inched up on her tip toes to reach the top of the wall. “I’m going to name her Juliet and her middle name will be Emily. I think Emily would prefer that I didn’t give her first name to our child. It wouldn’t be fair to ask our baby to live up to that.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it all planned out.”

“So, I’m going to finish the base coat by the end of the week, I think,” Elizabeth rubbed her nose, smearing pink paint across her cheek. “And then I want to stencil some designs, as like a border, you know? I can’t decide if I want to do teddy bears, ballerinas or maybe some fairies.” She pursed her lips in thought. “What do you think?”

“I think the baby won’t know the difference,” Jason answered honestly. Elizabeth rolled her eyes.

“You are so literal,” she sighed with a smile. “And you’re right, of course. I think I’ll do ballerinas. I can always paint it again.” She finished the wall and moved to the next. “Maybe I can paint some trucks and cars in Cam’s room. And then some puppies and kittens in Jake’s. He loves puppies.”

“I think you’ve got a lot work cut out for you if you want to get that done before you get pregnant.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I have the rest of my life to paint my children’s rooms. Now, are you going to stand there or are you going to help me?”

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Cameron’s Car

Cameron pulled up to the Davis home and turned his engine off, intending to go up to the front door and knock politely. Alexis Davis was known for being protective of her daughters and boys who honked their horns from the street did not date Davis girls.

Before Cameron could push his door open, the passenger side door opened and Molly slid in. “Let’s go.”

“Ah…” He blinked. “Are you sure your mom—”

“My mother is in her office, she doesn’t even know I’m going.” Molly buckled her seat belt. “So if we want to make a clean getaway, you’d better split.”

This was their third date in the last week and Cameron had yet to make it to the front door. If he didn’t know how Molly and Alexis felt about each other, he might start taking it personally. He backed the car out of the parking spot and started down the street. “Another movie?”

“Nah,” Molly blew a bubble with her gum and then popped it. “Let’s go up to Vista Point.”

What had once been a family picnic spot, Vista Point had been adopted by his generation as the make out destination. There was a grassy area near the observation area that teenagers used for parking. Cam had spent a great deal of his high school years up there (he’d had a thing for older girls with driver’s licenses even as a freshman) but you usually didn’t hit the Point until you’d been seeing each other more than a week.

“All right,” Cameron shrugged. He wasn’t going to argue if she wanted to fool around a little. She was over the age of consent, nearly nineteen – and she knew why people went to the Point. “You argue with your mom again?”

“Please,” Molly rolled her eyes and leaned forward to adjust the radio. “She wanted to have a discussion about my future earlier. I’m so sick of hearing about my future. If she talks about Kristina starting law school in September one more time, I swear to God, I’m just going to scream.” She flicked her eyes at him. “Your dad force you into college or was it your choice?”

“I don’t know,” Cameron said, thinking about it for a minute. He pulled up to a red light. “No, not really, I guess. He didn’t remember going to college and my mom went haphazardly, I think, until she went back for the nursing program after I was born, so he knows you can do it without college. It was just something that was kind of understood, I guess. You got out of high school, you did your time in college and stuff. I think Morgan’s mom pushed him hard though. She wants him to be like his stepfather.”

“Well, he can’t be like his own father,” Molly replied. “I mean, I hear a lot about Carly Jacks’ ability as a mother, but I can totally get why she’d rather he take after Jax.” She tapped her fingers against the bare skin her short skirt revealed. “Our parents are so fucked up. I never see my dad, my mother is so damn uptight. Your dad is just…stuck in a time warp and…” she shrugged.

“My mom is missing in action,” Cameron finished. “Yeah, I get you. I do think my dad would rather wake up and do the whole thing over again. Maybe figure out what he did wrong that led to someone messing with her.”

Molly bit her lip and looked at him. “Do you think she’s still alive?” she asked quietly.

Cameron didn’t answer her at first but finally, he shook his head. “No,” he replied. “I want her to be, but I know better. Other people might think she got fed up with my dad and just took off but I remember her more than Jake or Jules does and I remember she loved us.” He saw the turn for the Point and flicked his turn signal on. “Even if she didn’t love my dad anymore, she would have taken us with her.”

“You’re lucky,” Molly said after thinking about that. “I mean, not lucky in the sense that she’s gone, but you know, that you can have that kind of definite feeling. You know your mom loved you. I wonder sometimes about my dad.” She shrugged. “I get the expensive gifts at the appropriate times. He calls once a week and I go down to New York to see him every couple of months but it’s like…I’m a reminder of a life he wishes he’d never led.”

“There’s a lot of that going around,” Cameron mentioned. He pulled onto the grass and switched off the ignition. “Jake said that Amalia Zacchara is driving herself nuts about her parents. She blames herself for their problems.”

“Of course she does,” Molly said. “She’s not an idiot. She knows that Johnny Zacchara would never have looked twice at Nadine Crowell if he hadn’t gotten drunk in a bar and knocked her up. She was too sweet, too nice for him. He was definitely more suited to that trashy Lu Spencer. Li knows that they got married because of her and that the only reason they weren’t able to get rid of each other after the divorce is because of her. At least I can say my parents are civil to one another. Hell, they’re friends. Johnny and Nadine? They go at each other like it’s some kind of sport.”

Molly shook her head. “Parents. They try to run your life when they were hardly stars at running their own. The hypocrisy is alive and well in Port Charles.” She took her gum out of her mouth and dropped it into the cigarette ashtray. “Just once I’d like to look my mother in the eye and tell her that she was such a star at her own life that she’s never had real relationship, never been any good at connecting with her daughters and that the only reason Diane Miller has stuck around so long is because they love to one up each other.”

“So why don’t you?”

Molly pursed her lips. “Because I know it’s not really true. That the reason she’s never lasted with anyone is because she has bad taste in men and after my father screwed his stepdaughter, she’s got humongous trust issues that are well deserved. And that the only reason we butt heads so much is because she would die for her kids and she wants a good life for them. And of course, Aunt Diane stays around because they’re like sisters.” She blew out a frustrated breath. “But she just makes me so angry that I forget all the things I love about my mother and concentrate on the stuff that drives me crazy.”

“Well, at least you know that,” Cameron said. “Jake just goes after my father all the time. Now that Dad’s brought Mom out into the open and Jake’s able to voice his opinion about Dad causing her death, it’s a constant battle between them. He’s so angry at Dad that he says these things that I hope he doesn’t mean but I don’t really believe it. I think he believes Mom is dead and it’s our father’s fault.”

“Your brother’s an idiot,” Molly said. “Maybe your dad went way too long without talking about your Mom, but Jason Morgan freaking loved Elizabeth Webber and you don’t just get over that. She vanished without a trace, without warning and he doesn’t know if she’s alive or dead.  And despite that, he still raised you guys pretty decent.” She hesitated. “When my mom is really ticking me off, I look at her sometimes and I think…Thank God, she’s here to piss me off. I’d rather be arguing with her for the rest of my life than to spend it not knowing where she is.”

She rested her hand on his denim-clad thigh. “I always felt so bad for you guys, Cam, because you didn’t have a mom to argue with. That Jules is going to go through life never knowing how completely freeing it can be to just have a screaming match one second and the next, paint each other’s toenails. I hope one day, you guys find out what happened to her and who did it to her.”

“I’d give anything to know,” Cameron answered honestly. He met her eyes. “But even if I don’t, it’s okay. I know my mother loved me and a lot of people can’t take that with them.”

“You’re so different than the guys I usually date,” Molly said, changing the subject. She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Most of them would have tried to get under my shirt the second the ignition was off.”

Cameron grinned. “I like to distract them so they don’t know it’s coming.”

“Well, that can work,” Molly said. “But I like to be in charge.” With that, she rendered him speechless by climbing over the gear shift and straddling him, pressing her knees outside his thighs. “Does that bother you?”

“I am a free-thinking modern man,” Cameron managed. She grinned and leaned down to kiss him.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Morgan Home: Backyard

Juliet set the bowl of potato salad on the picnic table and climbed over the bench to take a seat. She loved their Fourth of July party – everyone who might even have a connection to their family gathered there. Carly and Jax were there, of course. Carly was currently keeping a very close eye on her daughter, Cecily, who was in the pool with Mal Drake. They were dunking each other, but every once in while, CeCe would wrap her legs around the boy and Juliet knew Carly was about five seconds from picking her daughter up by the hair and tossing her in a locked room.

Jax was trying to ignore the scene by talking with Morgan, Nikolas, Johnny, and Patrick Drake. One eye was always on his daughter, though, and Juliet could almost see the vein in his neck throbbing. Once a Daddy’s girl, always a Daddy’s girl.

It was the one event that Johnny and Nadine both attended, mostly because Nadine was always at the family functions and Johnny and Jason were still partners and it was just a matter of respect. They no longer argued in public but Juliet could remember a few occasions when she was a kid that they hadn’t been so civil. When Juliet was eight, Nadine had pushed Johnny into the pool.

Today, Nadine was sitting at the same table as Carly and Robin and attempting to keep the peace between the two. It was her yearly ritual but Juliet noticed a lot less drinks being thrown from there. Maybe Robin and Carly were finally growing up.

Amalia was in the pool, too, playing volleyball with Jake, Cameron, Molly, Spencer and Kristina. Juliet usually joined them but she’d volunteered to help her dad with the cooking this year. She loved to cook and earlier her father had said that he wasn’t sure where she had found this love—he cooked only when necessary and her mother could really only make brownies.

That was the best part about her life since the talk two weeks ago. Her dad was forever volunteering pieces of information about Juliet’s mother. It was like Jason Morgan had finally been able to open the door to his memories and now he didn’t bother closing it.

Amalia climbed out the pool, adjusted the bottom of her bathing suit and wandered over to the table where Juliet was arranging dishes. “So, Jules, can I borrow you later? After we eat? I want to run something by you.”

“Ditto,” Juliet agreed. She eyed the pool where Molly dunked Cameron and he shot back out of the water, grabbing her by the waist. He lifted her slightly and then dropped her with a loud splash. “I think they’re having sex.”

Amalia glanced back and nodded. “I think so, too. I don’t think Mal and Cece are. You can kind of tell because he keeps grabbing her in certain places and she’s laughing and pulling away. Good to know she’s not a complete idiot. You should never give it up before you’re at least sixteen. People tend to say things about girls like that.”

“You’re going to have a tough time waiting for my brother then,” Juliet said with a small smile. She tightened the plastic wrap overt the potato salad. “He’ll be nineteen by then.”

“Please…” Amalia tossed a wet lock over her shoulder. “Your brother is blind. He’s letting our stupid age difference get in the way. What an idiot.”

“You know very well if Jake were to ask you out now, your dad would have him fitted for cement shoes by the end of the night,” Juliet replied. “We’re only fourteen and just barely. Don’t you want to give it some time before you reel him in?”

“I give it much more time and one of those skanks at school will snap him up.” She shook her head. “No, I’ve just got to rethink the master plan. So, later, after dinner? Upstairs?”

“You got it,” Juliet promised.

After a boisterous dinner, during which Jax tried to dump the potato salad in Mal Drake’s lap no more than five times, Nadine accidentally spilled her water over Johnny’s head, and Alexis and Molly got into a heated argument about the merits of a career plan, Amalia convinced Juliet to leave the clean up to the boys and dragged her upstairs.

“This must be important if you’re passing up a chance to flirt with Jake some more,” Juliet laughed.

Once seated on their bed, Amalia dragged her wallet out of her purse and pulled out the clipping. “Check this out. I found it a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get a chance to show it to you before I went to my dad’s.”

Like Amalia, Juliet was a little surprised to find that such a picture existed. She wasn’t stupid, she knew where babies came from but living in this town, she also knew that you didn’t have to give a damn about each other to make a baby and for that reason, she’d always lumped Johnny and Nadine into that category. But this picture told a different story.

“I think your mom took it,” Amalia said. “Because it’s at the hospital waiting room, you know. And not many people were around my dad back then. Your mom was because of your dad, and Mom always said she and Elizabeth were close because of them both being pregnant at the same time.”

“They look happy,” Juliet said, “they even look like they like each other.” She frowned at Amalia. “Do you think this means Jake was right? About the gossip, I mean?”

“I definitely think so. I’ve been thinking about it and it doesn’t make sense that they just got married because she was pregnant. They got married in December 2009 and I was born in May 2010 and I was supposed to be due in April, so Mom was like five months along by the time they tied the knot.”

“You think maybe you were the reason they got closer?” Juliet pondered.

“Maybe. Maybe Mom told him she was pregnant and they fell in love.” Amalia took the photo back and carefully folded it to put it back in her wallet. “They were arguing and Mom said something about him sleeping with Lulu Spencer.”

Juliet gasped. “You mean he cheated on her? Well, then I can’t blame her for walking out and being so mad.”

“Me either.” Amalia paused. “When I was at my dad’s last week, I was playing the piano—which you know I never do there—and he heard me playing that piece I learned for Mom. The Beethoven. So he comes in, and we start playing it together. He tells me that he used to play it for my mom when she was pregnant with me.”

“Wow,” Juliet said. “That’s the one he wrote for the woman he fell in love with but couldn’t marry, right? Your dad played it for your mom? That’s so romantic!”

“I know!” Amalia nodded. “So then he tells me how he was scared to have a daughter but that my mom knew she was going to be really good at it. And when he was talking about her, it was like he was he was thinking about those days and he had this distant look in his eyes.”

“Like your mom when she hears that song?” Juliet prompted.  “That’s a good sign.”

“I think that they were in love then and they’re in love now,” Amalia declared. “That’s why Candy and Bambi—”

“Candace and Bailey.”

“Whatever. That’s why they didn’t last long and why my mother never dated seriously.” Amalia nodded. “So I’m going to find out why they got divorced and fix it so they can be together again.”

Juliet pursed her lips. “I’d say that’s impossible but since my own goal is just about as far-fetched as yours, I won’t disagree.”

“You want to find your mom, right?” Amalia said.  “You’ve always talked about it.”

“But now I don’t have to worry about my dad finding out I’m asking questions,” Juliet said. “I don’t really know where to start but I think maybe my dad thought it was connected to his job.”

“Well, yeah, duh. Can you blame him?”

“No, but I think he investigated that pretty thoroughly.” Juliet shoved off her bed and crossed to the wall near her window. “You remember last year when I wanted to paint my room and he kept putting me off?”

“Yeah.” Amalia glanced around at the cotton-candy pink room with the border of ballerinas dancing in a thick line about halfway between the ceiling and the floor. “You thought your room was too babyish.”

“My mom painted it,” Juliet said. “He told me how she was so sure her next child was going to be a girl that she painted this room the summer before she got pregnant and knew she was going to name me Juliet Emily, for my aunt.”

“I’m surprised painting over it wasn’t his first priority,” Amalia said thoughtfully. “He boxed everything else up.”

“Because he knew how much my mother loved me and how hard she worked to have this done before she got pregnant. He left this one little piece of her here even though he knew he was going to have to look at it every single day. I want to find my mother, yeah, but it’s not just because I need her or because Cam and Jake need her.” Juliet sank back on her bed. “But it’s because he needs her.”

“What if she’s dead?” Amalia asked gently. “Chickie, you have to know that a woman who clearly loved her family and friends so much…she doesn’t leave without a word for all these years.”

“I know that,” Juliet admitted. “And I think mostly I’m pretty sure that I’m just going to confirm that but we can’t keep living like this, Li. We all have to know. If she’s out there, if she had a good reason to go away or if she’s not still alive…then we need to have that closure. She deserves a service and to be buried with my aunt Emily.” She smiled weakly. “But for obvious reasons, I’m going to prefer for now, to believe she’s okay.”

“Me, too, Jules.” Amalia leaned forward and embraced her best friend. “Positive thinking is always good.” She drew back. “Where will you start?”

“I think I’m going to ask Lucky Spencer about her,” Juliet replied. “They used to be married and I heard somewhere that he was the first person that she met here, so they were friends the longest. If my mom knew anyone who wanted to hurt her before she met my dad, I bet Lucky Spencer would know.”

Amalia tapped her chin. “Research the subject. That’s an excellent idea. I shall also do a little digging. I’ll write my aunt Claudia to see what she knows and maybe I’ll ask your Lucky about his sister. Got to work up to the big guns. I don’t want to confront Lulu Spencer without some kind of plan.”

“My dad used to talk about Aunt Carly’s plans,” Juliet said thoughtfully, “and last year, when we were getting in trouble for sneaking to New York, he talked about your plan to sneak onto the train in the same way. He may have had a point.”

“Bite me.”

This entry is part 5 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

November 2009

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

“Boss-” Max Giambetti pushed open the door. “Johnny Zacchara to see you.”

Jason glanced up from some paperwork and frowned. “What’s he want?”

Max scratched his ear. “He didn’t exactly say. Me and Milo can toss him if you want.”

“No, no…” Jason stood. “Show him in.”  He set his pen down and rounded the desk. “I want to see what could bring him all the way to Port Charles.”

The younger man strolled in and stopped in front of Jason. “I have a business proposition for you,” he said.

Jason eyed him suspiciously. Despite the relative peace since Michael and Sonny’s deaths, he still found it difficult to trust Johnny Zacchara all that much. “Beyond keeping the peace, I’m not interested in doing business with you.”

“I think you might change your mind after you hear me out.” Johnny slipped his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m about to become a father.”

Jason’s eyebrows shot up and he glanced at Max to gage his reaction. Apparently the guard hadn’t heard the news either. “I hadn’t heard that. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. I know all of the families have adopted a hard and fast rule that women and children are off limits but I think you can sympathize with me and agree that you don’t have a lot of faith in that.”

“There are always going to be risks,” Jason admitted. “But we’ve changed the way we do business and overall, it’s safer than it ever has been. I can understand that you might have reservations. When Jake was born, I denied paternity to keep him safe.”

“I won’t raise my child the way I was,” Johnny said resolutely. “I had been thinking about coming here since I found out but yesterday, Nadine agreed to marry me and now I know it’s more important than ever to have a safe place for my family.”

“Nadine?” Jason repeated. “The nurse from the hospital?”

Johnny nodded. “She mentioned that Elizabeth is also expecting. She was excited; their due dates are within weeks of each other and she’s glad to have someone who’s gone through this before.” He paused. “We’re going to be bringing children into this world that will grow up together. I think we owe it to them to give them a better life than my father gave me, and what Michael ended up with.”

He was young, Jason thought. A little younger and definitely less experienced than he’d like. But he was smart and he knew that Jason’s weak spot was his wife and boys—and the child on the way. It appeared that Johnny Zacchara might have the same vulnerabilities. “What did you have in mind?”

“More than a truce. We run territories that border each other and people will always think they can divide and conquer. I suggest we combine our efforts and become partners.”

“I don’t deal with drugs,” Jason said shortly. “That’s a large part of your business.”

“I would, of course, make some concessions to that effect,” Johnny said. “Drugs are a fact of life, Morgan. We can either ignore it or control it. The way I run the business, they’re not marketed to children or teenagers and anyone who breaks that rule forfeits his life. I’d rather be in control of it. I would continue to support the embargo on the trade here in Port Charles. Nothing ships in or out.”

“They’re too risky,” Jason shook his head. “I don’t think—”

“People are going to find ways to kill themselves,” Johnny interrupted. “If they want drugs, they’ll find a way to get them. Like said, this way I can control who gets access better than you can. You simply turn your back and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I don’t like to admit it, but you have a point. All right. As long as you continue to enforce the embargo here, I can deal with that. I don’t want to have to provide protection for a shipment of them.”

“We can handle that on our end.” Johnny paused once more. “I can’t change the bad blood that’s in our past. I’d do anything to give Sonny back to his kids. But we can make sure that our families don’t have to pay for our choices.”

June 2024

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

Johnny had kept the house in Crimson Pointe and after his marriage had imploded, he’d moved back here, keeping a residence in Port Charles for the school year so that Amalia could spend every other week with him.

During the summer, he stayed in the house exclusively, traveling to Port Charles only when necessary. He hated the damn town and he’d be happy once Amalia was eighteen and he would be able to sell the condo and get the hell out. She was the only worthwhile part of his life there.

The strains of piano music drew him into the room that he used exclusively. He wasn’t sure that anyone else had ever played on the grand piano but he entered and saw his daughter playing.

And playing with such ability that it nearly took his breath away. He listened to her play Beethoven and wondered how she could have hid this from him all her life. There was so much about his daughter that he didn’t understand.

She hadn’t always been this uncontrollable and difficult to reach. Though he and Nadine had never been able to keep a civil tongue with one another, he’d had a good relationship with Amalia until she was about eleven years old and like someone had flipped a switch, his sweet little girl disappeared and this…angry young woman stood in her place.

After his terrible fight with Nadine a week ago, he’d stormed out of the house and hadn’t expected see to Amalia for a while. He did not call his lawyer to ask about custody and he knew that Nadine hadn’t either.

They’d been threatening each other with that for longer than either of them could remember. It never failed to incite the anger in either of them.

But his daughter had showed up the day before with a bag. She wanted to spend her scheduled week with him and he would never refuse her.

He ventured into the room, Amalia never looking up from the piano. Her eyes were closed but her notes were perfect. Another sign of her talent. She was as swept away by the music as he had been at her age. An escape from reality. A place in which he was in control and all was right and perfect.

The notes trailed off and she stopped. She opened her eyes and stared at him.

“I used to play that for your mother,” Johnny murmured. “When she was pregnant.” He trailed his fingers over the piano as he moved to join her on the bench. She shifted to the side just a bit. He picked up the piece where she left off. “She used to complain that I spent too much time alone in here so she had a sofa moved in so she could read while I played.”

Amalia joined him after another moment, playing the left hand portion of the music. He let his hand fall away and they played the piece together. “She wasn’t really into classical music,” he continued, “but she liked this one. She said it sounded sad and hopeful at the same time. I tried to teach her but she never really caught on. She told me to save it for our daughter.” He smiled to himself. “We knew  by then…that you were a girl. I was terrified because I didn’t know anything about raising a girl. I could have fumbled my way through with a boy, but girls were a whole other thing. Your mom…never had any doubts though. She knew from the second she was pregnant that you were something she’d waited her whole life for.”

“Do you realize,” his daughter said softly, never missing a note, “that what you just told me is the nicest thing you’ve ever had to say about Mom? Or that it’s the first story I’ve ever heard about you two? About how you were before?”

The piece drew to a close and Johnny let his hands fall from the keys. “Your mom and I have our issues,” he said after a long moment. “I won’t pretend to understand them or expect you to. But we love you. Every single inch of you. Even when you mouth off. Even when you run out of restaurants. Even when I want to throttle you, Li, I love you. And I know your mom does.” He took her chin in his. “Our marriage may have ended up being a mistake, but you never were.”

She bit her lip and cast her eyes to the side. “But I was an accident.”

“No,” Johnny shook his head. “An accident is something you’d change, that you would take back.”

“You didn’t plan to have a kid with Mom,” Amalia continued, sliding back on the bench. “I know all about it, Aunt Claudia told me when I was eleven.”

“I’ll bet she did,” Johnny muttered. “No, you weren’t planned but please don’t mistake planning with wanting.  It’s not the same.”

“But you ended up marrying Mom because of me,” she said stubbornly. “And you guys make each other miserable. How can you not hate me for it?”

“The things that happened between your mom and me are because of who we are,” Johnny answered slowly. “We were happy for a while. I don’t want you to think that we always…that we were always like this.”

“Then what happened?” Amalia pressed. “Why don’t you guys tell me?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t know you could play,” Johnny changed the subject. “You’ve never used this piano before.”

“Mom has an upright one at the house.” Amalia sighed, knowing that subject was closed. “I’ve been taking lessons since I was six.” She hesitated. “I knew you could play,” she admitted. “And I was stupid when I was little, I didn’t really know what being divorced or even being married meant. I just knew we weren’t a family so I thought if I could play and I was good at it, you might come home and love me again.” She drifted her fingers over the ivory keys. “It was stupid.”

“Li…”

“No, I mean, I know you love me. I guess. And I know you definitely did when I was six. But I practiced every day, all day. I thought Mom was going to kill me, but she just smiled and told me I was getting better.  I was going to show you how good I was but you came home with Candace before I could and I just…I was so mad at you because you’d ruined my plans,” she admitted. “You were supposed to see how good I was and marry Mom again but you couldn’t because you were married to someone else. So I decided I would never tell you.” She jerked a shoulder. “And even when I was old enough to know better, I decided I wouldn’t tell you because you might be proud of me and I didn’t want that anymore.”

Johnny exhaled slowly. “Well, I’m sorry, Li,” he said, “but I am proud of you. That’s a hard piece at any age, much less fourteen. And to be able to drop it and pick it up again so flawlessly, you’re further along than I was at your age.” He hesitated. “What made you decide tackle Moonlight Sonata so young?”

“It was something I used to hear Mom play on her stereo,” Amalia told him. “I was twelve and I figured if she liked it so much, I wanted to be able to play it, too. So I learned it for Mother’s Day. And when I played it…she smiled.” She paused. “So I guess it’s a good memory for you both.”

“I guess so,” Johnny murmured. He cleared his throat. “How are you with Mozart?”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Cameron dropped into a seat across from Morgan and grinned at him. “It’s a crying shame that you suck so much at basketball.”

His cousin glared at him. “You play dirty,” he accused. “If we had a competent referee, you would’ve been thrown out!”

“Lucky for me Mal spends more time watching CeCe than he does on the game.” Cameron glanced up as Molly Lansing stepped outside the restaurant and went to check on a table across the courtyard. “Hm.”

“Oh, if that’s anything like the hmm you got with Sarah Elliot, I would like to ask you to just stop it now because I’m still getting yelled at by Mom and Jax about the tires on my car being slashed,” Morgan complained.

“Is it my fault Sarah turned out to be both a stalker and colorblind?” Cameron demanded.

“It’s your fault for not demanding a psych work up before you make these girls fall for those pretty eyes,” Morgan grumbled. “And don’t forget, Molly Lansing is my cousin.”

“Only technically,” Cameron shrugged. “Alexis never let those girls anywhere near you or your mom.”

“Exactly, so you can imagine how it’ll piss her off if Jason Morgan’s son goes after her precious dumpling,” Morgan countered. “And you do not want that woman on your butt. She still has friends at the DA’s office.. Do you know what she did to Kristina’s last boyfriend? Had him hauled in on a speeding ticket. A speeding ticket! She’s nuts.”

“Paranoid,” Cameron corrected. “Besides, I only gave her a hmm. I’m not an animal, you know. Yo, Molly, are you going to take our order or are we going to pass out here?”

Molly Lansing planted her hand on her hip and smirked. “Yeah, like you boys are going to suffer if I don’t feed you in the next ten minutes.” She sauntered over, her long brown pony tail swishing back and forth. “What do you want?”

“Hamburger, well done, with fries and a soda,” Morgan answered. “How is your mom handling your newfound career?”

“Still having a conniption.” Molly rolled her eyes. “Just because I’m not like my perfect sister and going to college to be a lawyer doesn’t mean my life isn’t worthwhile.” She flicked her caramel eyes at Cameron. “What do you want?”

“Chili and a soda,” Cameron said. “You know what you could tell your mom the next time she starts in on you? Elizabeth Webber started out as a waitress and ended up a surgical nurse. All she needed was time to figure it out.”

Molly studied him curiously, realizing it was the first time Cam had brought his mother up willingly. “That might work. Mom always had a soft spot for your mom. Or so I’m told.” She tapped her pencil against her order pad. “What are you doing tonight?”

Morgan groaned. “It never fails,” he muttered.

After making plans to take Molly to the movies, she went to put in their orders. Cameron sat back in his chair and cracked his knuckles. “It’s a gift, man. Plain and simple. The old Morgan charm.”

Morgan snorted. “Yeah, I somehow doubt that. No offense man, but the day they gave out charm, your dad was….somewhere else entirely.” He tilted his head to the side. “Maybe your biological dad had the charm.”

“Don’t know,” Cameron shrugged. “Died way before I was born and he’s another person no one ever talks about but with him, I think it’s more that there aren’t a lot of people around that remember him. It’s not a big deal to me. He was never a father to me.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, yeah, Sonny was my dad and I kind of remember him,” Morgan said, “but Jax has been there my entire life. Even before my dad died, I think he was around more.” He hesitated. “So how have things been at the house since all that stuff last week?”

“It’s been okay.” Cameron shrugged. “I mean, Jake’s still pissed off and Jules has gone off the deep end. She keeps hanging pictures of Mom everywhere and Dad’s just letting her go wild even though it’s got to hurt to see her face everywhere after so long. She keeps talking about her plans to find out what happened to Mom but I can’t see how that’s going to happen. If my father couldn’t find her, how the hell does Jules think she’s going to be able to?”

“You never know,” Morgan said. “It’s not like anyone’s actively looking, right? And dude, someone out there has to know the answer, Cam. She didn’t just fall down a hole in her car and disappear. Someone out there knows exactly what happened to her. Like someone knows exactly who killed my brother,” his face hardened. “Someone has the answers and things like that? They got a way of coming out.”

“I guess you’re right,” Cameron agreed. “If someone…hurt her,” he said, not able to admit his mother might have been murdered, “that person is out there. You hear about people going in and confessing all the time. Someone has to know what happened and it’s only a matter of time.”

Nadine Zacchara’s Home: Living Room

The house was always eerily quiet when Amalia was with her father and Nadine hated the summers more because it meant her daughter was not a few blocks away but an hour, in Crimson Pointe.

It was these weeks that made her regret staying in this house after the divorce. They’d bought it just before the wedding because Jason and Elizabeth Morgan lived a few streets away and Johnny knew how much her friendship with Elizabeth meant to Nadine, especially while they were both pregnant. This house was a constant reminder of what their lives had been and what they could have been if things hadn’t changed.

She had moved out of the house temporarily when Amalia was three, but once they were legally separated and dueling in court, Johnny had retreated to Crimson Pointe and she’d returned here. She’d stayed because she wanted to believe that maybe they could work out their problems, at least for Amalia’s sake and she’d never left because her daughter had enough turmoil in her life. She deserved this stability for as long as Nadine could provide it.

When she was alone in this house, she couldn’t stop herself from remembering what it had been like then. The piano on the sun porch that she’d scrimped and saved to buy for Johnny as a wedding present. It was nothing like the beautiful grand piano he used at the estate, but he’d been so pleased and she’d been so proud that she could find something worthwhile to give this man with all his money.

He’d sat with their daughter when Amalia was no more than six months and tapped out everything – from the simple scales to complex pieces Nadine almost couldn’t follow. Amalia had soaked it in and Nadine wasn’t sure if her daughter knew it, but Amalia was entirely capable of playing simple scales by the time she was three. It had been the first thing that had truly bonded father and daughter and now Nadine was sure Johnny didn’t even know how beautifully she could play.

Nadine moved restlessly from the living room to the sun porch and sat down on the piano bench. He’d tried to teach her while she was pregnant but she wasn’t able to catch on and now she couldn’t even remember those scales. When she sat here, she could remember how much she’d loved her ex-husband once. She hadn’t when they’d conceived their daughter, and not when she’d told him she was pregnant.

But two months later, when he’d asked her to marry him so sweetly, she’d loved him desperately and hoped one day he’d feel the same. He had always been kind to her, but it only took a few years and a few slaps in the face from his past to know that she was a consolation prize.

She rubbed her face tiredly. Maybe it was time for a change of scenery, she sighed. She was only making herself worse by dwelling on these things.  Johnny certainly didn’t. He’d married just over two years after the divorce. It hadn’t lasted more than six months, but before the ink had been dry on the second divorce papers, he’d married again. And had stayed with the second one for almost two years.

The doorbell broke into her musings and Nadine left the sun porch, grateful for the distraction. And even more thrilled when she pulled open the door and found one of her favorite people standing there.

“Nikolas!” she cried, embracing him tightly. She laughed and pulled away. “I didn’t know you were coming to Port Charles!”

Nikolas Cassadine smiled in return. “I decided to bring Spencer for the summer. He’ll be starting Oxford in the fall and I wanted him to have some time with Lucky.” He hesitated.

“And Lulu,” Nadine answered with a wry smile. “You don’t need to tiptoe around it, I know she’s popped back into town.”

“Yeah, well…” Nikolas shrugged and followed Nadine inside. “It’s been too long since I’ve spent any time here. Wyndemere looks more and more gothic every time I see it. It amazes me I spent more than fifteen years in that house.”

“London looks good on you,” she smiled. “It was good that you got away from here.” She sat on the sofa and he sat next to her. “So how is Spencer doing? Aside from going to college?”

“Well,” he nodded. “He has Courtney’s stubborn nature, of course. I had to practically wrestle him into registering at the university. He wanted to come back to the States but I’m not nearly ready for him to be so far away.”

“We never are,” Nadine sighed.

“Is Amalia with her father?” Nikolas said, keeping his tone light and even. He’d never disguised his dislike for Johnny Zacchara and had been one of the few people in her life that had whole-heartedly supported the divorce.

“Yes, this is his week. I didn’t think she was going to go, they had an awful fight the last time she was there and I don’t think he was going to push for it but she asked Jake Morgan to drive her there yesterday.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about them. She has a very large crush on him.”

“He’s three years older than her, nearly to the day,” Nikolas murmured. “Not a very big difference, but almost insurmountable at seventeen and fourteen.”

“I know that age is just a number,” Nadine sighed. “I remember all the people who are far apart in age and still happy, but she’s my little girl and I’m not ready for her to be dating and falling in love. She’s got Jake Morgan wrapped around her finger ,though, so I guess it’s about out of my hands. You can’t live their lives for them.”

“No, I don’t suppose you can, no matter how much you try,” Nikolas said with a grin. “How is Jake? And Cameron and Juliet? Are they doing well?”

“Better,” Nadine answered. “Jason found a box that Juliet had been hiding, with pictures and clippings of her mother and I guess he realized how much Jules needed to know, so last week he sat the kids down and told them anything they wanted to know. Amalia told me that Jules is hanging pictures everywhere so she can see Elizabeth in every room.”

“That’s good,” Nikolas said softly. “It’s good that Jason is finally ready to take that step. I didn’t handle Emily’s death any more easily so I can sympathize with him.” He started to say something else but then shook his head. “Never mind, it’s insane.”

“What?” Nadine asked with a smile. “What’s insane?”

“I was doing a tour of the estates last summer,” Nikolas said slowly, “and I went to the estate in Greece, outside of Athens. I saw a woman who looked so much like Elizabeth, it nearly took my breath away.”

Nadine frowned. “You don’t think…”

“No, no,” he shook his head. “No, I don’t think it’s her at all. I long ago accepted that she’s gone but I suppose my mind was playing tricks on me. I had been thinking about her, she and Emily and growing up together had been on my mind because Spencer was the age I was when I moved here. I had been thinking about how awful it was that no one knew where her body was, that she’d been unable to have a proper funeral and burial. It’s just amazing how much your mind can want something that you almost make it happen.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Nadine sighed.

This entry is part 4 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

September 2009

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

The strains of the piano died away as Johnny heard footsteps in the hallway outside the room. A moment later, the heavy door opened and he was surprised by the hesitant blonde woman who entered. “Nadine.” He stood.

“Um, hi.” She wiped her hands nervously on her khaki slacks. “Your, ah, butler just told me to come back. I guess I don’t look very threatening.”

“No, I guess you don’t.” He crossed the room to her. “What brings you to Crimson Pointe? Not exactly in the neighborhood, is it?”

“Um, no.” She smiled weakly. “Look, I’m only here to…what I mean to say is that I’m only here because it’s the right thing, not because I expect anything, okay?”

Johnny narrowed his eyes. “Nadine, it almost sounds like…”

“Yeah, it’s like a speech from all those bad movies. But I really mean it; I don’t want anything from you that you don’t want to give, okay?”  Nadine told him. “I’m pregnant and I swear it’s yours.”

“I don’t…” Johnny paused and shook his head, a little out of himself. “I have to say, I don’t really doubt that. I can’t think of any woman who would pass off a kid as mine unless there wasn’t any choice.”

“Johnny…” Nadine chewed her bottom lip. “I’m okay if you want to get a paternity test. We don’t know anything about each other—” At his disbelieving look, she clarified, “anything other than what people gossip about—”

“It’s a bit more than gossip.” Johnny moved away, restlessly running his fingers along his piano. “I was on trial for murder last year; I don’t think you missed those headlines.”

“No, but I also didn’t miss the acquittal notice,” Nadine said. “C’mon, Sonny Corinthos went after you with a gun. It was you or him. There’s a reason we have a self-defense law on the books, you know.”

“Regardless, I’d understand if you didn’t want me to have anything to do with…” he gestured towards her absently.  “The baby.”

“I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” She tilted her head towards him. “Do you really think you’ve got the market cornered on family drama? My sister killed patients at General Hospital. She’s been in a coma for two years and she’s probably never going to wake up. You think people don’t look at me and think maybe I’m just as crazy as she was?”

“I guess you might understand a little,” he allowed. “But one sister is different than a legacy of blood and violence.”

“Does it have to be your legacy?” Nadine asked. “I mean, if you don’t want to be in this baby’s life, I’ll understand. But don’t say no because of what your name is.” When he said nothing, she closed the distance between them and took his hand in hers. “I know this isn’t exactly planned, but it could be a good thing, right? Maybe we’ve both been wrapped up in all the bad stuff in our past but this could be a chance to change that.”

“Do you really want me to be a father to this baby?” Johnny asked. “You’d be stuck with me for the rest of your life.”

Nadine smiled hesitantly. “I can think of worse people to be stuck with.”

He twisted his hand around until hers was engulfed in his much larger one. “Then I think we can make this work.”

June 2024

Morgan Home: Living Room

Cameron Morgan dropped his duffel bag by the front door and allowed his father to enfold him in a bear hug. “Hey, Dad.”

“Good to have you home,” Jason pulled back. “Was the drive okay? You and Morgan weren’t too tired?”

“Nope, we made really good time.” Cameron jerked a thumb towards the door. “I’ve got the rest of my stuff in the car. Do you think I can con Jake into getting it for me?”

“Always a possibility,” Jason replied. “Listen, Cam, I need you to stick close to home tonight. Carly and Jax are bringing Cecily and Morgan over and I want to sit down and talk to you guys about a few things.”

Cameron frowned. “Anything wrong?”

“No, no,” Jason shook his head.  “Not really. Just some things we should have discussed a long time ago.”

“Sure,” Cameron agreed. “I’m going to unload my car and meet Morgan at Kelly’s for lunch. He’s gonna catch up with CeCe, Kristina and Molly there so I said I’d stop by. Is that all right?”

“Sure.” Jason watched his oldest son go back out the front door and disappear into the garage. Cameron was not his biological son but when he and Elizabeth had married, he’d immediately suggested adopting the toddler and giving Cam his name. After Elizabeth had….vanished, there had been a scuffle as others thought Cameron should be with other people – someone who was a blood relative. Elizabeth’s grandmother had still been alive and Lucky Spencer and his sister Lulu had campaigned for Audrey to raise Cameron instead.

Jason hadn’t helped matters by disappearing for a year to search for his wife, but he’d left all three kids in Carly’s custody with paperwork drawn up by Diane. Carly had fought all the battles to keep the kids together and by the time Jason had returned from his travels empty-handed, custody of Cameron had been decided swiftly by Audrey’s death in early 2011. With no other blood relative stepping forward, Lucky had been forced to abandon his efforts.

“Was that Cam?” Juliet demanded, halfway down the steps. “Is he home?”

“He’s in the garage,” Jason hesitated. He and Juliet hadn’t exchanged many words since the scene in her bedroom the week before. “Juliet, I know we haven’t seen eye to eye these last few days, but—”

“No, it’s okay,” Juliet replied. She came down the rest of the stairs and stood in front of her father. “I know talking about…my mother…is painful for you,” she said. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

“It’s okay.” He put an arm around her shoulder and drew her in for a hug. “You have questions about your mom that are understandable and I should have answered them a long time ago.”

“Are you going to now?” Juliet asked hopefully.

“Tonight,” Jason said. “Aunt Carly and Uncle Jax are bringing over the things I had stored in their basement and we’re going to go through them.” He paused. “Your mom should never have been hidden away in boxes and in basements. It was just…” he shook his head. “It was the only way I could think to deal with everything.”

“It’s okay, Dad. I mean, in a way I’m glad you loved Mom so much that it hurt to look at her,” Juliet admitted. “I look at Amalia’s parents and they can’t stand each other.”

“There are reasons Amalia doesn’t understand for what happened between her parents,” Jason said.

Juliet narrowed her eyes. “Does that mean you know why they divorced?  Because you know, it would help if she knew—”

“That’s between Johnny and Nadine Zacchara and trust me, it has nothing to do with you or Amalia.”

“Adults always think that,” Juliet sighed, exasperated.

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Jake dropped into the seat across from the despondent Amalia, who had barely touched her soda or plate of fries. “You look like someone kicked your puppy.”

“The first time I’m allowed to see the light of day in a week and your sister tells me that she’s busy.” Amalia huffed. “It’s ridiculous. I need to branch out. I totally needed her academic skills today and she abandoned me.”

“The nerve of Jules having something to do that doesn’t revolve around you.”

She threw a fry at him. “Haha.” She dug something out of her purse and shoved it at him. “Look at what I managed to find all by myself.”

Jake glanced down at the photocopy of a newspaper clipping. “It’s a picture of your parents and their engagement announcement.”

“No, look at the picture.” She leaned over the table and pointed to it. “Do you see that? He’s got an arm around her. They’re smiling.”

“So?” Jake shrugged.

“They look happy.” Amalia sat back. “And it hit me that this is the first picture I’ve ever seen of my parents together. I don’t even have any of them where they’re mad or not smiling. It sucks. And it proves that my parents liked each other at some point, even after he found out she was knocked up so maybe he did want me a little.”

Jake frowned. “What makes you think he didn’t want you?”

“I overheard them yelling at each other last week, the night I ran out on him. My mom brought me home and Dad was waiting. He was freaking out on her and they really went at it. He blamed her for getting pregnant, because she was supposed to be on birth control. And then she accused him of sleeping with Lulu Spencer when they were married.”

“Look, people say things when they’re pissed off. They don’t always mean them,” Jake said.

“True,” Amalia allowed. “But you don’t just say crazy shit, you know? Whether you mean them or not, if you say them, it means the thought had to be in your head even if it didn’t hold a lot of truth. So maybe my dad does regret having me because I didn’t turn out the way he wanted me to. And maybe my dad did cheat on my mom. It would explain why they’re happy one second and at each other’s throats the next.” She shrugged.

“If your dad made a mistake, you don’t think your mom was capable of loving him enough to forgive him?”

“That’s the thing, I don’t know if they ever loved one another. Maybe they were only happy until I was born.” She sighed. “It’s just…you know how you have all these questions about your mom and what she was like and why she’s not around anymore?”

“Yeah,” Jake nodded. “So?”

“So…I have all those questions, too. I think we all deserve the answers.”

“Well, my dad’s going to have some huge family meeting tonight to talk about Mom so maybe you should start asking your mom. Show her the picture.”

“I guess it’s worth a try.” Amalia rested her chin on her hand. “Thanks. You’re getting pretty good at cheering me up. Trying to dethrone Jules from best friend status?”

“Li, I doubt we’d make very good best friends,” Jake said honestly. Best friends rarely wanted to do the things he thought he might want to do to Amalia. If only she were a little older. Another year, two at the max and he could seriously consider ignoring the three years between them. Sixteen and nineteen was much better than seventeen and fourteen.

Morgan Home: Back Porch

Jasper Jacks set the last suitcase by the sofa and wiped his hands together. “That’s the last of it.”

“Thanks,” Jason answered, doing his best to avoid looking at the boxes strewn across the coffee table that he knew held photographs and personal effects. “I thought Juliet might want to go through the clothes. I doubt the boys would be interested.”

“Boys today,” Jax sighed, thinking of the fraternity prank Morgan had been caught pulling in someone’s bra and skirt. “You just never know with them.” He hesitated and glanced back through the open door into the kitchen where his wife was arranging some small finger foods with Cecily and Juliet. “For the record, Jason, I think it’s good that you’re doing this tonight.”

“I shouldn’t have left it so long,” the other man admitted, “but I guess doing it this way meant to me that she was really…” Jason closed his eyes.

After nearly two decades of calling this man and his children family, Jax had gone from a grudging respect to a reluctant affection. Jason Morgan had become a closer brother than his own and he was glad that he’d been able to reach that point because his life with Carly became much easier once Jax openly accepted her best friend. “We all want to believe that she could come home tomorrow,” Jax said quietly. “And with the way things happen sometimes in this town, no one blames you for holding out hope. But there comes a time when maybe doing so hurts more than accepting what’s real.”

There was some rustling outside and the door from the garage to the backyard opened. Cameron emerged, followed by his best friend and college roommate, Morgan Corinthos. Jake was behind them.

“We’re here,” Jake said, shoving his hands into his khaki shorts. “Let’s get this over with.”

Jason bristled but before he could say anything, Cameron socked his little brother in the shoulder. “Show a little respect, asshole,” he said. “You and Dad can have this little war all you want but this is about Mom and Jules doesn’t need this.”

“It’s always about what Jules needs,” Jake muttered, climbing the back stairs and flopping down on one of the chairs. “Whatever.”

“Hey, you guys,” Carly said, emerging from the kitchen, a tray of drinks in her hands. The girls followed each with a bowl of either chips or pretzels. “It’s so nice to have you and Morgan home, Cam. The houses always seem so empty without you.”

“I’m supremely happy to have you home,” Cecily remarked. She sat primly on the edge of the second sofa and took one of the iced teas her mother had. “Maybe now Mom and Dad can freak out on someone else for a change.”

“I doubt that, CeCe,” Morgan smirked. “I never gave them an ounce of the trouble you have.”

“And I thank you for it every day,” Jax said dryly, sitting next to his daughter. “We’ll let up, Cecily, when you prove we can trust you.”

“Then I guess you’re going to be a prison warden for a few more years.”

Jason saw his daughter eyeing the things on the table and decided that she’d waited long enough. He gestured for everyone else to sit down and then sat between Juliet and Cam on the first sofa. “Um, I guess you guys figured out why we’re here.”

“Because someone’s finally living in reality?” Jake muttered.

“Jake,” Juliet hissed. “Stop it.”

“We never really talked about what happened back then,” Jason continued, “but I know you all have a pretty good idea from asking around town. Your mom left for work one morning and no one…” he stopped and had to take a deep breath. “No one saw her again. We never found her car, there was never any activity on her credit cards or her bank accounts.”

“She just vanished,” Carly said, taking up part of the story to spare Jason some of the brunt. “Your mom had a lot of friends in this town and even those who weren’t that fond of her joined in on the search. We had search parties in the woods and we didn’t give that up until almost a year later.”

“No one even thought they saw her?” Juliet asked quietly.

“No, no, not even a pretend sighting,” Jason answered. “I thought, we all thought, that it was an aftereffect of Michael and Sonny, or…” he stopped because the kids deserved to know what might have happened to their mother but he didn’t want to expose them to his business. “Or maybe they thought I was weak because Johnny Zacchara was still alive.”

“After Michael died,” Carly said, “Sonny lost it. He went insane with grief, he stopped taking the medication that had balanced him. No one could talk him out of going after Johnny. Not his girlfriend, not me and not Jason. He went to Johnny’s house, pulled a gun. Johnny pulled his own. Sonny shot him and Johnny shot back.”

“So it really was self-defense,” Cecily said. She shrugged when her mom looked at her. “People always wondered if maybe he’d just gotten off because of his money.”

“No, it was self-defense,” Carly confirmed. She looked at Morgan who was silent. “Your dad was a good man who just lived life the wrong way.”

“Dad still lives his life that way,” Jake said bitterly. “He lived his life that way after Sonny died and that’s why Mom’s gone.”

“Jake,” Cam started to stand but Jason pulled him down.

“He’s got the right to say it. She was his mother and he thinks she’s dead,” Jason said. “I don’t know if she is—”

“For God’s sake, she has to be dead!” Jake shot to his feet. “She’s either dead or a bitch for walking out and not looking back—”

Even Jason couldn’t hold Cameron back. The lanky young man shot to his feet and hurled himself at his brother. The two grappled and fell back, tipping over Jake’s chair. Jax and Jason both lunged towards the two boys and Morgan yanked at the back of Cam’s shirt.

“Stop it, stop it!” Juliet shrieked. Carly hovered just behind the brawl, wringing her hands.

Cecily sipped her drink, chewed on a pretzel and sent Mal a text message saying she didn’t know what time she’d be out of here.

Finally, Jax held Jake by the shoulders and Jason had Cameron. “You’re such a little bastard!” Cameron shouted. “You don’t know a damn thing about Mom and you’re just pissed off at Dad. It doesn’t give you a reason to say shit like that! She was the best!”

“Well, how the hell would I know?” Jake retorted, wiping at his bloody nose. “I was three years old! I barely even know what she looks like because he wouldn’t tell us!”

“Just stop it!” Juliet said, shoving her way between her brothers. “If you two just stop trying to kill each other, maybe Dad will tell us what we want to know!”

“I’m okay,” Cameron told his father. “I won’t beat the shit out of him. Not yet, anyway.”

Jax and Jason released the boys and Jax reached over to tip the chair back into its correct position.

“I don’t think for one minute your mother walked out of this house that morning intending to leave you three. Even if she hated me, she would have been here for you kids,” Jason bit out. “You have no idea what your mother would put herself through to keep you all safe. This life, the way it was back then…your mother lied to me about who your father was,” he told Jake.

“I know that,” Jake said, irritated. “She was married to Lucky Spencer and told him he was the father. She should have stuck with him, she’d probably be alive right now.”

“She saw what this life was doing to Michael,” Jason retorted. “She saw that he was angry all the time, and she knew what had happened to other women in my life. The way we were doing business made everyone a target and after she told me the truth, I told her we were going to keep it a secret because I didn’t want anything to happen to you, or to Cam.” He glanced at Cameron. “Because your mother loved you. She’d had a miscarriage before you and one before you,” he told Jake. “Nothing was ever more important than her kids, so you can take that with you, Jake. She would never have left you without a damn good reason.”

“You can’t seriously think Mom is still alive,” Jake said flatly. “If she was as wonderful and loving as you say, she would have found a way to tell us she was all right. She’s dead and she’s been dead since the morning she disappeared. One your enemies killed her.”

“I don’t know that,” Jason answered roughly. “It didn’t seem likely at the time. After Sonny died, we made a lot of changes. I didn’t retaliate against Johnny Zacchara, he took that as a sign of good faith and the truce that had already been in place was continued. We became partners after he married Nadine and when his daughter was born, we swore that we would never let the blood and the violence touch our families again.”

“Life was different,” Carly told Jake. “The need for constant guards was gone. Cam and Morgan were in regular schools. Those first two years after Sonny died were peaceful. There’s no reason to believe that an enemy of Jason’s would kill his wife and then disappear. The point of hurting family members is to get a point across but no one made a play for the business, no one ever hinted.”

“So maybe it was revenge, plain and simple,” Jake countered. “Someone who just wanted to make you bleed inside for the rest of your life and what’s the best way to do it? To kill your wife and leave you wondering if she left you.”

“Jake—”

“No, I want him to answer it,” Jake snarled. “He’s got a damn answer for everything else, I want to hear an answer for this.”

“I don’t have one,” Jason admitted. “I searched for a year, hoping to find someone anywhere that would know what had happened. I never found anything and in all these years I have never found anything. I hold out hope that Elizabeth is still alive because I don’t know that I can wake up tomorrow and face the fact that she might not be. I’m just not strong enough.”

He drew away from his sons then and took his daughter’s hand to lead her back to the sofa. “There are photo albums here that your mother worked on while she was pregnant with you. They’re filled with pictures of her, growing up, raising Cam and Jake, being pregnant with you, and there are a few of you and your mom.” He gestured towards another box. “And these are a few of the sketchbooks and smaller paintings she had.” He pointed to the back of the porch where several canvases were stacked. “And there are the larger ones.”

Juliet stared at the canvases. “Mom painted?”

“All the time,” Jason said. “The room next to yours—the one that’s empty? It used to be her studio at the house.”

“But she was a nurse,” Juliet said slowly. “Right?”

“She became a nurse after she had Cameron. Until then, she was a waitress at Kelly’s to support her art. But she said she needed something stable for him, medical insurance. It started out as just a job, but she grew to love it.”

Jason exhaled slowly and looked back at his sons. “I hate that I hid her from you. I should have raised you knowing about her, being able to look at her, and maybe you would be able to trust me when I say that she loved you three with every breath inside her. She ran into a burning house and slashed an artery in her leg to get you out of the house, Jake.”

Jake shifted, uncomfortable.

“She loved you enough to put her dream aside so she could build a better life for you,” he told Cameron. “And she stayed married to a man she didn’t love to keep you both safe and happy with two parents.”

He looked to Juliet. “She painted your nursery herself before she even knew she was pregnant. We wanted to have a baby and she knew, even before you were a reality, that you’d be a little girl and she had the painting done before she found out she was pregnant. She loved you, Juliet, before you were even real. She named you for her best friend, my sister, who died a long time ago.”

“Your mother loved me enough to marry me, to let me raise her oldest son as my own, to have children with me. And to put up with Aunt Carly,” he said with a half-smile.  “She had enough love for all of us and she would never have left us without a fight.”

July 27, 2015

I really really really hate writing titles for these posts. It’s either boring “Story Title Here Updated” or just “Round-Up” or something else equally inane. I’ll have to work on that schtick.

allweareSo let’s get things underway. First, I have Chapter Fifteen for All We Are. There are only two chapters of this left — we’re still scheduled to finish up on August 10 as scheduled. However, I still haven’t had these last two chapter beta read, so I won’t be posting this at Fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own, or The Road to Nowhere until they are. I really really hope to have the ebook ready by next week so I can do the giveaway.

Second, Damaged was updated on Friday. I hope you guys have read it — please remember to drop me a line if you damagedenjoy it (or hell, if you hate it, I can always use some help). I’m going to start posting over here that it’s updated since I can’t figure out how to get my Facebook posts to automatically updated from that installation the way I can for this. Anyway. Not important. What is important is that Damaged, Episode 2 was posted and Episode 03 will arrive on schedule.

Third, Bittersweet is offically a go. I’m storyboarding the scenes as we speak and plan to post the bittersweetfirst chapter on Monday, August 24. So check out the story page that’s already set up and get ready to turn back the clock thirteen years to a time when Courtney was the sweet girl that AJ loved and Sam was still Livve on Port Charles. Ha.

And lastly, I’ll be updating tomorrow with the Fiction Graveyard story, Tangle. I’m still cleaning up the other stories, and they haven’t really been on my list of priorities.

Have a great week! Let me know what you think of All We Are. I’ll see you tomorrow with Tangle, Wednesday with The Best Thing, and Friday with Damaged. 🙂