Heart beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone
All of my doubt, suddenly goes away somehow
– A Thousand Years, Christina Perri
Thursday, July 25, 2002
AA Meeting Room
AJ accepted the gold chip from his sponsor at the podium and spent a moment looking at it, turning it between his fingers. Feeling the weight of it. He had several of these at home already—a white one for his first twenty-four hours of sobriety, and then one for every month that followed.
All of those were important to him. He carried the most current one in his pocket everywhere, touching it when the urge to drink threatened to swallow him. He would take the chip out, look at it—look at the length of time imprinted on it and reminded himself of all he had to throw away.
But a part of him had never truly believed he’d make it to this chip. To this moment.
“AJ?” his sponsor touched his shoulder, his voice quiet. “You don’t need to say anything, you know that, right?”
“Yeah.” His voice felt rusty, but he raised his eyes to meet the steady eyes of the man who had stood behind him the whole way. He looked out to those gathered—the usual members and the small group there to see him get the coin.
His miracle, his wife, Courtney. His mother and father. His grandparents. Ned. And next to Courtney, Jason and Elizabeth.
His brother was there to see him in this moment. Even if Jason never called him that, never felt that link—AJ always would.
He took a deep breath and turned to them. “My name is AJ. And I’m an alcoholic.”
There were murmurs of the usual greetings. “Today I am one year sober.” He looked down at the coin. “A year ago, I came to my first meeting. But I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to say. I’m…I’m not even sure I know what to say now.”
He looked back at the audience and found Courtney’s encouraging eyes. “I had a miracle happen to me this year. I found someone who looked at me…and liked me. Just the way I was. Damaged. Broken. But she saw something in me worth loving. It gets easier to believe that it’s true every day we’re together.”
Elizabeth leaned over and squeezed Courtney’s hand, and the two shared a smile.
“I have a son,” AJ continued. “Because of my choices in life, his mother kept him away from me. I used…I used to hate her for that. But now that I’ve been allowed to be with him, to be his father—” He met Jason’s eyes. “I get it. They put him first. I wasn’t ready to be a father. To stop letting the alcohol win. But I am now.”
He cleared his throat. “I drank to forget. To forget that I wasn’t what my family wanted. That I had destroyed my life, nearly killed my brother. That I had thrown away anything worthwhile in my life. But last year…I looked at myself in the mirror and I realized…” AJ’s voice caught. “I realized that I was killing myself. And I didn’t want to do that anymore. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted to stop living in a fog. Stop letting everyone else define me. I couldn’t stop drinking for my son. Or to atone for my brother. But I stopped for myself.”
He looked down at this coin. “I’m not sure I ever believed I would get here. And I’m terrified I might slip. That I might have to start over. But I—I know what it’s like to win now. To feel worthy. To be respected. And I have so much to lose. So, I hope that I’m here again next year for a second year sober. I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”
“I’m so proud of him,” Courtney murmured as AJ took his seat up front. “How honest he is.” She looked at Elizabeth. “And how happy he’s been with Michael. Thank you.” She met Jason’s eyes as well. “Thank you for letting him have a chance.”
When the meeting was over, Courtney and the Quartermaines went forward to meet AJ but Elizabeth hung back with Jason. “You okay?”
“Yeah. I guess…” Jason shook his head. “I don’t know. He’s been sober for a year. That’s…that’s good.”
“It’s always one day at a time,” she murmured.
AJ broke away from the others and hesitantly approached them. “Hey. Thanks for coming.”
“Congratulations.” Elizabeth stepped forward and embraced him. “I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks, Liz.” AJ smiled at her. “It’s really…it’s Courtney who should—”
“You’re the one who didn’t take the drink,” Jason cut in, surprising them both. He looked away, as if he couldn’t quite meet AJ’s eyes. “Yeah, she’s been there. But you didn’t—you did the work.”
“Thanks.” AJ swallowed. “And thanks for last weekend. We had a lot of fun with Michael staying over.”
“Bobbie and I were talking—” Jason shifted slightly. “And we think it might be—we might try a few days. Maybe three or something.” He finally AJ’s eyes. “If you want.”
Elizabeth’s throat closed, and her eyes burned as she saw the surprise, the happiness, and the terror flitting across AJ’s face. She was so…proud of Jason for doing this. For giving AJ this chance. She knew how hard it was for him to give on this, to let go of Michael and trust AJ.
“Yeah.” AJ cleared his throat. “Yeah, I want.”
Friday, July 26, 2002
Corinthos Penthouse: Living Room
“The PCPD’s final report came back,” Benny said with a twist of his lips. He tossed a folder on the table. “They’re ruling it accidental.”
“What?” Sonny barked reaching for the paperwork. “How in the hell—I thought you said they found bomb remnants—”
“They’re reclassifying it as materials from the warehouse. Blaming a gas leak.” Benny hissed between his teeth. “They don’t have any leads, so it’s easier for them this way.”
“It’s easier for us,” Jason said after a long moment. He skimmed the report Sonny passed to him. “We’re almost finished the reconstruction. If the PCPD ruled it accidental, we can get back to work.”
“Unless it’s a trick,” Sonny muttered. He poured himself a bourbon and tossed half of it back, letting the harsh liquid burn a trail of fire down his throat. “We’re going to have to stay careful. They’ll be raiding it. Maybe…maybe that’s the point here.”
Jason raised his brows. “Blow up our warehouse? Let the cops crawl all over our waterfront properties for almost two months? Just so we can get harassed by the cops? I’m not saying no,” he added when Sonny scowled at him. “It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
“We’ll need to find a way to draw the attention from our warehouses,” Benny said, neatly sidestepping both men. “I think we may have to consider the possibility that the warehouse explosion was an accident—in that perhaps they did not intend it to be so powerful. In the last two months, not one member of the Families has taken advantage of our…issues.”
“Benny’s right,” Jason said. “And I’m finished going over the books. Looking at all the men. The casinos in Atlantic City could be run better, and that goes for the island. For Puerto Rico, but that’s just because of the expansion. And—”
“Because Nico is chomping at the bit to get out of Port Charles,” Sonny muttered. “His crew came back clean?”
“No. But his is the only crew that looks like an issue. Most of Sorel’s men went to Nico because he was a familiar face,” Jason told him. “We probably should have pushed some of them out of the city. He’s into drugs, there’s no doubt. They must have dumped the product because their sales records took a hit about a month ago, but they’ve ramped it back up—”
“The Paradise and Oasis sales are through the roof in June,” Benny confirmed. “Triple that of May and double over last year. And July is on track—”
“It was a distraction,” Sonny murmured. “Thought we’d be preoccupied with the warehouse. Thought it would force me to get you back into the fold,” he said to Jason. “We were right to keep you focused on the paperwork. Because now when I demand answers from that son of a bitch, I’ll—”
“We need to take this slowly,” Jason cut in. “He’s cocky right now, Sonny. And running drugs isn’t the goal. It can’t be. He’s been doing it for over a year, but now he tries to distract you? Now he tries to get out of town and leave a scapegoat? There’s no way Nico didn’t know Zander was a hothead. He planned on it. And he knew you hated him. He knew I hated him.”
“He’s got something else planned.” Sonny nodded. “Okay. I can get behind that. It makes sense.”
“Time to put in surveillance,” Jason told Benny. “Tell Stan we want everything. Both the Paradise and Oasis. Nico and Lenny’s phone lines.”
“I want someone following them at all times. I want to know who they talk to. When they talk to them.” Sonny hissed. “I shouldn’t have let the bastard in. I just—I didn’t want another Sorel. Better to join. Divide and conquering has never solved anything. Not after Smith or Moreno.”
“Drugs are lucrative,” Benny said kindly. “And most of the men don’t have your feelings against it—”
“You think I give a damn how people destroy themselves?” Sonny challenged. “I keep drugs out of Port Charles because I don’t want them near the high schools, yeah. But the PCPD know I don’t traffic in drugs. It’s good for my reputation to be against them. It’s kept me in business for the last seven years.” He shrugged. “People can go anywhere for drugs. If I really gave a damn, I wouldn’t move Zacchara or Ruiz’s product.”
“Fair enough.” Benny checked his watch. “I better catch Stan while I can.”
When their business manager left, Sonny looked to Jason. “We’ll need to keep you out a little longer, but maybe by the end of the summer…unless you have plans to head out of town soon.”
“I—” Jason hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“You stayed for Michael’s custody.” Sonny poured himself another. “It’s settled now.”
“Yeah, I guess. I don’t think AJ is going to challenge it, and we’ve already increased visitation.” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “But Elizabeth is graduating in December and she’s managing Kelly’s—”
“Ah.” Sonny managed a half smile. “So you’re sticking around.”
“I—hadn’t thought about it, honestly. I figured I would be even before—but, yeah. Elizabeth’s life is here right now. I don’t know. Maybe that’ll change.” Jason shrugged. “For now, it’s better if I stay on the fringes. Francis and Johnny are doing a good job of handling things.” He waited a moment. “And I’m okay with what I’m doing now.”
“Keeps you out of the line of fire. Below the radar. Makes Elizabeth safer, I guess.” Sonny eyed him. “You’re not going to be able to keep out of it forever, Jase. I hope you both know that.”
Tuesday, August 6, 2002
Miami, Florida: Pier
Zander scrawled his signature at the bottom of a clipboard, gave it back the harbor master, and gave the signal to his crew to unload.
It wasn’t glamorous work—way more manual labor that Zander had had to do running gamblers and bookies to ground back in Port Charles, but it wasn’t too bad. He had his own guys and might even move up the ranks, but he wanted off the pier, off the docks altogether.
Miami had a lot of opportunities to make money, and Zander was always looking for the next score.
Zander turned to find his boss’s youngest son loping towards him. Manny Ruiz was short and covered in tattoos, and from a distance, wasn’t all that intimidating.
But up close, there was a glint in his eye that made even the toughest guy shrink back. The Ruiz boys, save for the brother who had turned priest, were fucking crazy, and Manny was the worst of them.
“Manny.” Zander turned, met his eyes evenly. “You need something?”
“Papi wanted me to send a message.” Manny tilted his head with a half-smile. Despite the smothering, muggy heat, Zander felt a cold chill dance down his back. “Our friend has been in touch. You should start paying attention to matters back home.”
“Am I going back?” Zander asked. He looped his fingers through the belt loop of his jeans. And why the hell was Manny Ruiz playing messenger boy?
“Not yet, no, but…” Manny stepped closer. His tone remained friendly, but the light in his eyes was anything but. “Papi wanted to make sure you know…if anything goes wrong, we’re out of it.”
In other words, when this all blew to hell, Hector Ruiz would set his fucking insane progeny on anyone who brought his name into the discussion.
Fair enough. If Zander had tools like Manny and Javier Ruiz to deploy, he would do so as often as necessary.
“If anything goes wrong,” Zander said, slowly, “I’ll be too busy getting my ass out of there to worry about diming anyone out.” He offered his own sickly-sweet smile. “I don’t intend to be caught, and I’m the only one who could give your name.” He paused. “Other than Luis.”
“Just so we’re clear, amigo.” Manny clapped him on the shoulder. “But I like you, you know. Papi expects good things from you.”
Manny offered him another smile and then loped back up the ramp to the shipyard. Zander rolled his shoulders. He would play his role for Luis Alcazar, but when this fell apart as Zander thought it might, he was going to come back here to Miami, making money and not giving the Ruiz family a single regret for giving him a chance.
He’d do what he could to bring down Corinthos and Morgan, but there was no way he was putting his ass on the line. Not worth it.
Kelly’s: Dining Room
Gia wiggled her fingers. “You see these hands, Liz? These are the hands of a free woman. My last summer class ended today.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and scowled at the receipts. She really needed to ask Jason to help her with the books more often. She sucked at math.
And lately, she almost resented having to total this stuff up at the end of the day. She had cleaned out her studio a few weeks ago, and for the first time in months, she was spending time there again. Sketching. Drawing.
She’d meant what she told Lucky almost two months ago — going back to school, managing Kelly’s—they hadn’t been plans. They’d just been a way to fill her time. Give her a direction. A reason to get out of bed.
And she was glad to be finishing her degree, even if she’d mostly got it to thumb her nose at anyone who said she couldn’t. And she was glad to be helping out Bobbie here.
But she was starting to feel restless again, as if this wasn’t quite what she’d planned. Or what she wanted.
“These last two months sucked,” Gia continued, “but it means we can both graduate in December.” She reached for her milkshake and slurped it. “Yo. Liz.”
“What?” Elizabeth blinked at her. “Oh. Yeah. It’s good. I’ll be glad to get some time off next month. Um, Courtney said she’d cover my shifts if we still want to go away for a few days.”
“Funny you should bring it up.” Gia flexed her shoulders. “You’re still dating Jason.”
Elizabeth frowned at her. “What?”
“Almost three months now. Going solid. All good. Super happy for you. You know what Jason has?”
“Oh.” Elizabeth scowled. “Christ, Gia. You want me to ask my—” Because boyfriend sounded weird, she skipped right over it, “if we can go to the island? What for free? Should I ask for Sonny’s jet?”
“Well, if you can get it—” Gia frowned. Tilted her head. “I know that tone. I thought—” She paused. “I thought things were good. You’re barely ever at the apartment anymore. I’d take it personally, except I think it’s more because we live in the same building as my brother. Are you guys not okay?”
“No, we’re fine.” And because that sounded less than convincing, Elizabeth tried again. “Okay. I don’t really know. I mean, we’re—I think we’re happy. I just—” She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I can’t explain it. We’re together almost every night. And it’s good. When we’re together. I mean, it’s…not perfect, but it’s almost like it could be. I just…” She set the receipts down. “I think it’s me.”
“I know it’s you,” Gia muttered. “He’s too sexy for it to be him.” When Elizabeth glared at her, Gia just shrugged. “It’s usually you. And I say that with love.”
Elizabeth wanted to argue with her, but Gia’s logic was rock solid. Jason was an open and honest person. When something bothered him, he said so.
Not that anything was bothering her. It wasn’t.
“I think I don’t remember how to be happy,” she confessed. “That…I’m so used to fighting with Lucky and just generally being miserable in a relationship, I find it…uncomfortable to just have things be easy.”
“And I think it’s because it’s early, right?” Elizabeth chewed her on her pen cap. “It’s a few months in. And we know each other really well. And we agree on stuff to do together. Take out from a bunch of places. Rides on his bike. Spending the night at Jake’s. Or sometimes at my studio. I don’t…ask him about his job because I don’t need to. I know if there was something for me to know, he’d tell me.”
“Yeah, okay, so this is what’s called the infatuation phase,” Gia told her. “You’re both enjoying each other. It’s not complicated yet. You haven’t decided to take it to the next step.”
“The next step?”
“You know, you’re just enjoying being together. And yeah, you do know each other really well, but I bet you’re still learning new stuff.”
“I—” Elizabeth tilted her head. “He’s a neat freak. Which I didn’t expect. Folds his clothes. Puts it away. Doesn’t like clutter. I used to think he just didn’t have a lot of stuff. My studio drives him crazy because there’s stuff everywhere. He never said anything before, but now I can see his grimace sometimes when he thinks I’m—” She smiled at the image.
“You need to figure out how to relax,” Gia told her. “Because it ain’t gonna be sunshine and roses. Eventually, y’all are gonna argue. Or one of you is going to start to want more.”
“More?” Elizabeth couldn’t imagine wanting more than she had right now. It would be tempting fate, and that bitch had always hated her.
“Yeah, like, you’re both sleeping together in small spaces. Maybe you want a drawer at Jake’s. Or your own bathroom at the studio. Or one of you says those three little words before the other is ready. Someone always wants more first.” Gia shrugged. “I mean, I don’t think it’s an issue for you guys right now. You’re both stupid for each other. But yeah, eventually, just hanging out at Jake’s isn’t gonna be enough.”
“I guess.” Elizabeth sighed. “It’s just irritating to know I could still…have doubts. It’s exactly what I thought it would be like to be with Jason.”
“Safe,” she murmured. “And amazing. The way he just listens. Or looks at me. The way he says my name—”
“Girl, you’re not the only one who finds that hot.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Gia—”
“He drops his voice an octave. It’s sexy. I like it. I have decided not to settle for anyone who doesn’t make my panties wet when he says my name,” Gia declared. The mother sitting a table away gave her a dirty look which Gia didn’t notice.
“Anyway—” Elizabeth said, her cheeks flaming because—well, Gia was right. “It’s not just—I mean. Yeah. You’re, um, not wrong about…you know.”
“Oh, damn it. I knew it.” Gia huffed. “Sex on a stick. He just oozes it. I should have seduced him when I had the chance.”
Elizabeth flicked her straw wrapper at her friend. “Hey. Hands off. Don’t be jealous because I’m having better sex than you.”
“Girl, you are having better sex than everyone.” When the mother gave Gia another dirty look, Gia arched her brows. “Why don’t move closer, you want to listen so much? Maybe she’ll talk about positions next.”
The older woman scowled but averted her face.
“You’re going to get us shut down for obscenities,” Elizabeth said with a roll of her eyes.
“She’s as jealous as the rest of us.” Her roommate waited a moment. “You’re not used to a guy who respects you. Who treats you like a queen. You should ask Jason to go away for a few days. And hey, if he needs to do business, I’ll be happy to come along and keep you company.”
“Somehow I knew this would come back around to a free vacation.”
Saturday, August 24, 2002
AJ & Courtney’s House: Front Porch
Jason hugged Michael one more time. “Have a good time this week, all right?”
“We’re gonna have lots of fun, Uncle Jason,” Michael assured him with a broad smile. He peered up at his father through shaggy blond hair. “Right, Dad?”
AJ grinned down at him. “Right. We’re going to Six Flags on Tuesday. You guys can come if you want,” he told Elizabeth.
“Oh.” Elizabeth grinned at Jason. “You like roller coasters?”
Jason hesitated at the sparkle in her eyes because he couldn’t figure out if she was joking or not. “Uh, let me…check my schedule.”
“It’d be lots of fun, Uncle Jason.”
“Pretty sure I’d pay to see you at a theme park, Jase.”
“You and everyone else,” Elizabeth told AJ with a wicked grin. “I could live forever off those proceeds—”
“All right, I think it’s almost time for Michael to go to bed,” Jason said, stepping back. AJ just laughed and with another wave, father and son closed the door behind them.
Jason stood there, watching the door for just another minute. Elizabeth slid her hand into his. “You okay?”
“Yeah. And he loves his new room.” Elizabeth tugged him down the steps and Jason followed her reluctantly. “And the backyard.”
She turned to face him when they reached the door of the SUV Jason had borrowed from Sonny to drive Michael to AJ’s house. “But this is his first full week. And you’re worried.”
“He’ll be okay,” Jason muttered, but he looked away.
“Because you know it’s not going to be long before Michael’s living with AJ,” Elizabeth said. “Bobbie’s already talked about how much Michael and AJ seem to like each other.” She let her fingers drift down the soft blue t-shirt he wore. “I know that used to hurt you. The idea of them together.”
Jason exhaled slowly and dipped his head until his chin hit his chest. “I didn’t trust AJ. And it…it was the way it happened. I didn’t have a chance—I couldn’t…get ready for it. And I know I was right to give up visitation. That it gave Michael his best shot.”
“Doesn’t mean it hurts any less.” Elizabeth looked at the one-story ranch home Courtney had been so excited to close on a month earlier. Her first real home, she’d told Elizabeth at Kelly’s. She’d always lived in apartments, but now she had a home.
“He’s happy here,” Jason said after a moment. “That’s all I ever wanted for him. He’s not…AJ’s good. So far.”
Elizabeth nodded, because Jason had been forced to come a long way in the last five months. He’d all but ceded custody to a man that had almost killed him. A man who had spent most of his life in a drunken oblivion. “That’s one of the things I—” She stumbled a moment, and he tilted his head as if he knew what word she’d nearly said.
“One of my favorite things,” she corrected. “Is that you’re fair. And honest. I know it’s been difficult to let this happen. And not just because of AJ’s alcoholism.”
“Part of me…” Jason hesitated. “Still thinks I’m betraying Carly,” he admitted. “I promised her—”
“And you did everything you could to keep that promise,” Elizabeth cut in. “You really did. And maybe Carly would have rather you take Michael on the run to keep AJ from winning. I know you don’t like to break your word—”
“But I made a promise to Michael, too,” Jason said. “To always put him first.” He looked back at the house. “And that’s what I’m doing.”
She opened her mouth, but whatever she had been about to say—she swallowed it. And not for the first time that day. Or week. Or this month.
He brushed his fingers against her temple, smoothing her hair behind her ears, and she turned into his touch. How many times had Jason touched her like this the year before and watched as she’d pull away? Go back to Lucky?
“What were you going to say?” he asked softly.
“Now. Or before.”
She tipped her face up to him as he kissed her, drinking in her taste. Her scent. “What were you going to say?” he repeated, their breaths mingling.
“Nice try.” But Elizabeth was smiling as she said it and kissed him again, her hand fisting in his shirt. “Let’s go back to Jake’s.”
Jake’s: Jason’s Room
“You’re thinking again.”
Her breath still shallow, her heart still racing, Elizabeth scowled and sat up, her hands sliding down his chest, still straddling him. “Excuse me?”
Jason just grinned up at her, his hands behind his head. “You’re thinking again. What’s going on?”
“Nothing.” She started to slide away, to reach for the thin sheet and cover herself, but Jason kept her there with his hands gripping her hips. “Jason—”
“You started to say something earlier and stopped. You did that yesterday. And last week.” Jason sat up, touched her cheek.
“It’s not—” Elizabeth sighed. “You’re not wrong.” And this time, when she moved away, he let her. “I don’t know. I feel like an idiot. I’ve been…” She searched for the right way to express what she was thinking. “When you first came home, I tried to push you away.”
“I know.” He cleared his throat. “Are you—”
“I was so afraid of hurting you again,” she continued, holding up her hand. “And of being hurt. And I think…maybe I was afraid to be happy. Nothing…nothing good ever happens when I’m…happy.” Her voice trembled a bit. “I know that sounds insane—”
“Elizabeth.” Jason drew her against him, tucking her head into shoulder as they laid back. “It doesn’t. Sound insane, I mean.”
“I just…these last few months…I think I’ve been waiting for something to go wrong. For you to change your mind, maybe. Or for me to mess it up.”
“I can’t promise that nothing is never going to go wrong,” he told her. “We’re both probably going to make mistakes.” Jason shifted so he was laying on his side, facing her. “But that’s not what you were going to say earlier.”
“Ugh. You’re relentless.” She bit her lip, but suddenly she didn’t feel like she would be tempting fate. “Specifically, what I was going to say earlier…at the house…was that…” She reached up to trace his features with her fingertips. “The way you look at things…with openness. Honesty. Fearlessness. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.”
He wrapped his hand around her fingers, bring them to his lips where he kissed them softly. “Your courage and the way you always believe in people is one of the reasons I love you.”
She opened her mouth to reply, but her cell phone began to shrilly ring from the depths of her purse across the room. She blinked at it and had almost decided to ignore it when his cell phone in his jeans began to ring, too.
“That…” Jason sat up and reached for his jeans beside the bed. “That can’t be good.” He looked at the display. “It’s Sonny.”
Elizabeth rushed to her purse and pulled out her phone. Fear sliced through her chest. “It’s Gia. Oh, God, what if something—”
She heard him talking into his phone and she answered hers. “Gia—”
“Jesus ‘effin Christ, Elizabeth Webber. You are not going to fucking believe what the hell is going on here!”
“What?” she heard Jason demand from across the room. She turned to him, his phone against his ear, his face drained of color. “Say that again, Sonny.”
“Carly was here a little while ago,” Gia said. “Caroline Benson, aka Destroyer of Worlds, is alive, looking for her son and pissed as hell. And Bobbie was too stunned and told her about AJ— ”
“Carly?” Jason repeated. “What—”
“I’ll call you back,” Elizabeth said, numbly, closing her phone. “Jason—”
“We have to—” Jason stared at his phone. “Sonny said Carly just left his place. Carly. Looking for Michael.”
“That’s…what Gia said. Um, she knows he’s with AJ. I guess she’ll go to the mansion first, but—”
“We should…” Jason just stared at her, trailing off. “I can’t—”
She took the phone from him and touched his cheek. “Hey. I can’t imagine what’s going through your mind right now. Carly’s alive. And she’s on the war path.”
“Right.” He cleared his throat. “So we should go to the house. We should get there before her. You should call AJ.” He started to pull on his jeans but stopped and sat on the bed. “Christ, Elizabeth. Where the hell has she been for the last five months?”