Notes: Happy holidays! I’ve been toying with returning to the world I built in The Best Thing for ages – there’s a small piece of the story that I actually wrote a year ago. I don’t know if I would ever do a full-fledged sequel, but it was lovely to visit the world again. Last year I wrote another epilogue for All I Want For Christmas, so I figured it would be fun to visit another story.
The Best Thing didn’t have an epilogue initially because I didn’t really know what I wanted for their future. This was written two years after I finished the story (almost three actually.)
It’s set four years after the close of Chapter Thirty-Four. I hope you guys like this!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Morgan Home: Living Room
The room looked as if a several bags of glitter and tinsel had exploded in the alcove where the Morgan family kept their tree. The two eldest Morgan children had dived into their mother’s box of Christmas decorations and discovered a container of tinsel that she had forgotten to remove before they arrived home from preschool that day.
Elizabeth Morgan had merely turned her back to set her youngest son, Jake, in a playpen and give him his stuffed elephant—clearly forgetting the first rule of Christmas decorating with small children. She could already hear maniacal giggles from the alcove, and when she turned back to assess the situation—
Four-year-old Evangeline already had strands of tinsel streaking through her coal-black curls while four-year-old Cameron was throwing the tinsel at their pine tree—the tree that had no other decorations yet. It had been waiting for their father’s return from an unexpected business trip.
“Evangeline Samantha Morgan.”
Evie blinked at her, her caramel colored eyes round with wide-eyed innocence. “Mommy, it’s not my fault.” She jabbed a chubby finger at her brother. “He went into the box.”
“You opened the tinsy!” Cam shot back with a dark scowl.
“Cameron Hardy Morgan.”
Cam heaved a heavy sigh, then turned his own angelic expression in her direction. “I miss Daddy,” he declared, then his lower lip trembled just a little.
Elizabeth arched a brow. “I invented that look.”
The sadness vanished from Cam’s eyes and the scowl returned. “Evie made me do it.”
She sighed when eighteen-month-old Jake began to wail behind her. He hated being in the playpen, and she could already hear him throwing toys. One—a plastic car—sailed from behind her and hit Evie in the cheek. She shrieked and went for her brother.
Elizabeth stopped her advance, sweeping the little girl up in her arms, ignoring the outrage shrieks and kicks as she dropped her daughter on the sofa.
“It’s not fair!” Evie screamed.
“Mommy!” Cam dived for cover as another one of Jake’s toys careened past him, hitting the tree.
“Daddy!” Jake wailed.
“Oh, man.” Elizabeth sat in her grandfather’s old arm chair and put her head in her hands. Why—why—had she offered Nora the month of December off?
The playpen shook with an ominous rattle as Jake’s chubby fists wrapped around the top edge and he frantically tried to climb out. He managed to lift himself part of the way over the metal rail, but he couldn’t quite get the leverage to haul himself completely over the top—
So, he slid back down, threw back his head, and wailed at the top of his lungs. Evie started crying, pressing her hands over her ears, and Cameron—because he clearly didn’t think his mother was paying attention to him anymore—started tossing some more tinsel at their bare tree.
She only put Jake in there to have five minutes when the kids got home from school—so she could distract them—and then Jake could run free—but of course, he was only a toddler who didn’t understand that mothers needed to breathe.
Elizabeth took a deep breath, then started to reach for her youngest child. One kid at a time—and the tinsel was the least of her worries.
The door was pushed open then, sweeping in the brittle December wind and a bit of the snowflakes that had been gently falling for several hours. Jason stepped over the threshold and was immediately tackled by her eldest children who could run—
Jake rolled, kicked, and wiggled until Elizabeth released him. Jason grabbed Jake and in his own way—managed to hug all three of them at the same time without giving one any extra attention. There were days when he made parenting look so easy, she wanted to murder him.
“Hey,” he said, as he crossed the room, dragging Evie and Cam who were both attached to a leg. He leaned over the top of Jake’s head and kissed her, his lips cold and his breath holding the scent of coffee. She’d missed him—
They hadn’t been separated for two weeks since—since never, Elizabeth realized. Since they had started dating at Nikolas and Emily’s wedding four years earlier—their longest time apart had been that terrible week after her grandmother’s death and Sonny’s psychotic break.
“I missed you,” she murmured against his lips. “How was the island?”
Jason hesitated, then sighed. “We’ll talk about it later,” he said. He kissed her again. “Why was everyone crying when I—” He blinked at the tree, the bottom half of which was only decorated with tinsel before looking down at his two children—Evie with tinsel in her hair and Cam with tinsel sticking out of the collar of his green sweater. “We got into Mommy’s Christmas box, huh?”
As Cam and Evie launched into elaborate defenses of themselves, Jason looked at his wife with a light in his eye that told her he was struggling not to laugh. For the moment, her own irritation and exhaustion lifted, and she started to laugh.
Later that evening, after they had cleaned up the tinsel, fed the children dinner, and decorated the tree properly, Jason took the boys to their room to sleep while Elizabeth tucked in Evie.
“Tell me my special story, Mommy.”
Elizabeth stroked her daughter’s dark, almost coal-black curls with a sad smile Evie couldn’t see. “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess named Samantha who was about to become a mommy. She loved her little girl so much and would have done anything to keep her safe. But then she got really sick.”
“And she could only hold me for a minute,” Evie said, the words as familiar her own name. “So, she held me tight.”
“And she made so many wishes for you. To be safe, to be happy, to be smart. To have a good life.” Elizabeth’s throat tightened slightly. “She gave you to the best man she knew—”
“That’s right.” Elizabeth smiled, stroking Evie’s cheek. “He promised your birth parents that he would love you so much and keep all their promises for them.”
“And then Daddy fell in love with you,” Evie said, rolling on her back. “And you became my Mommy, and you gave me a brother.”
“An older brother,” Elizabeth corrected softly. “Because they’re annoying and irritating, but no one loves and protects like an older brother.”
“And now we gots Jake.”
“And now we have Jake,” she repeated. “And I know you and Cam will take care of him the way you take care of each other.”
Evie rolled over again and smiled at the two frames on her night table. One, a photo of her biological mother, Sam McCall, and the other, a picture of her adopted parents on their wedding day. “Night, Birth Mommy. And we live happy ever after.”
“Like all good fairy tales.” Elizabeth leaned over and kissed her cheek.
She met Jason in the hallway and raised an eyebrow. “Are they both asleep already?”
“Jake is, but I let Cameron watch Ghostbusters again. I’ll check on him in an hour.” He followed her downstairs and they settled themselves on the sofa in front of the fireplace and their twinkling Christmas tree.
“Evie asked for her story again tonight,” Elizabeth said. She leaned into Jason’s embrace, luxuriating in the warmth and comfort she found in him, even after all these years. She needed these quiet moments at the end of the evening when she and Jason regrouped, compared notes, and prepared for the next day.
It hadn’t been easy finding the rhythm of having three small children with two active careers of their own, and the surprise of Jake had complicated things for a time, but their world had eventually balanced out. Cam and Evie had started school this year and it was a bit easier—
Until the call had come a few weeks earlier and Jason had had to leave in the middle of the night for the island.
“She’s been asking for it a lot the last few months,” Jason murmured. He sighed. “Is she not getting along with Cam? She doesn’t feel like she’s part of—”
“No, I think she likes it. It makes her special, and she knows she’s adopted.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “Cam’s teacher asked about that—about why they’re so close in age. I told her what we tell everyone—we each brought a child to our marriage, but I worry sometimes—”
“Evie’s ours,” Jason told her. The adoption had begun in earnest six months after Sonny had been sent to the island and completed almost two years earlier. “We don’t—”
“Evie’s always known she’s adopted. We made it special for her. And she has pictures of Sam on her nightstand.” Elizabeth sat up and twisted to look at him. “But Cameron—I don’t think he realizes it. And the reason the teacher asked about their ages—” She sighed. “He looks like you. He got my sister’s blond hair—and my blue eyes. He has no memory of anyone but you.”
“And making Evie’s adoption special—you think it’ll bother Cam when he gets older that he doesn’t have that story about Zander.” Jason wrinkled his nose. “Do—should we talk to him—”
“I don’t know if I can give Zander’s story a fairy tale twist. Sam died giving Evie life—with her last dying breath, she was thinking of her little girl. But Zander—” Elizabeth twisted her wedding ring on her finger. “I don’t want to erase Zander from his life. It’s not fair. I just—I never want Cam to feel like he didn’t deserve the kind of story Evie has.”
“If we wait until he’s old enough,” Jason said, after a moment, “we can tell Cam and Evie about Zander and Sonny at the same time. They both have biological fathers who were troubled—who won’t play—” He grimaced.
Elizabeth pressed her hand against his chest. “It didn’t go well did it?” she murmured. “Was it like last time?”
Since going to the island, Sonny’s recovery had been uneven. He went through doctors and medication like candy, and at least twice a year, Jason had gone to do damage control. Unlike a lot of people living with bipolar disorder, Sonny didn’t seem to be able to stay lucid and in control for very long.
It was a vicious cycle—he would be clear and sane for months before thinking he was cured. He’d stop taking his medications—then crash. He had had another psychotic break the year before, and he’d made it as far as the private airport to fly back to Port Charles.
The dream they’d once pictured of Sonny recovering enough to be part of their lives—to know his daughter, to rebuild a relationship with his sons—every year that passed, it seemed further away.
“This time the doctor argued with me about keeping him out of Port Charles,” Jason said. He leaned his head against the back of the sofa, his eyes looking toward the ceiling. “He seems to think the reason Sonny hasn’t been able to get a balance is that we’ve take him out of his natural environment.”
“Didn’t you tell him the last time Sonny had a break in Port Charles, he nearly killed you? That he sent men with guns after two babies?” Elizabeth demanded. “We’ve talked about this, Jason. Sonny can’t come back.”
“I know.” Jason closed his eyes, swallowed hard, before straightening and looking at her. In the dim firelight, she could see the anguish in his expression. “I’m doing the right thing for you and me. For the kids. For everyone who lives in Port Charles.”
“But not for Sonny.” And he wouldn’t be the man she loved if the decision didn’t weigh on him. In so many ways, their lives would have been easier if Sonny had died all those years ago—if Jason had let Sonny kill himself.
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how make it better. If he came back—” Jason shook his head. “Would he always understand that he can’t be in control? Would he be satisfied with part of the life he had before? Is that even a risk I want to take?”
Elizabeth reached for his hand, tracing her fingers over the lines in his palm, over the gold ring on his fourth finger. In sick and in health, for better or for worse—
She’d made those promises to him. Had promised to love and cherish him. And in her own mind, she had made different vows—silent ones.
She had promised that her face would never change, and that she would always do what was needed to be Jason Morgan’s wife.
“How did you leave it?” she asked. “What was Sonny like?”
“He didn’t have another break, and he’s back on his medicine.” Jason looked at her wary eyes. “Why?”
“If it weren’t for me and the kids, you would have brought him home years ago,” Elizabeth said. “I know that. It’s me that’s holding you back.”
“No—” Jason shook his head. “No. It’s not just that. That last break here—it wasn’t just what he did here in this house—” Sending armed guards to steal Evie by force, not even caring that Elizabeth had only just lost her grandmother—that her son was in this room—
“It’s what he did to Carly. She won’t let him have a relationship with the boys. Still. And I don’t blame her for that.” Jason swallowed hard. “We decided together that Sonny had to stay—”
“It’s me that’s holding you back.” Elizabeth repeated. “And there are times when I look at Evie, and I see Sonny. I see him the way I remember him. The way I loved him once. That last night—at my engagement party—that man—I want that man back. And maybe the doctor’s right.” She bit her lip. “Maybe he doesn’t feel like he needs to stay on the medicine because he’s alone down there.”
“I’m not saying he should come home full-time,” Elizabeth interrupted. “But—maybe it’s time we took the kids down to the island. Maybe it’s time Sonny met Evie and we reminded him that he’s not alone.”
Jason’s shoulders slumped, and he just stared at her for a long moment before shaking his head. “I can’t ask you to do that—”
“You’re not asking me. I’m offering. You weren’t the only one who lost Sonny. Evie lost her father. Courtney lost her brother. I lost a friend. I refuse—” She shook her head, resolute now. “I refuse to believe that the man we loved is lost forever. What happened—it was traumatizing, and we’ve had to dig out of it. But I can’t sit here, celebrating Christmas with the people I love most in the world and not feel guilty that the only reason Sonny is alone right now is because of an illness that he can’t control.”
Tears welled behind her eyes and she sucked in a deep, shuddering breath. “We’ve been punishing him, scared of what might happen if he came home. You saved his life four years ago, Jason, but we sentenced him to live in prison anyway. I can’t live with it anymore. I can’t ask you to keep doing it—to keep being the bad guy who has to go down there and tell Sonny he can’t come home.”
“He told me this last time that I should have let him put the bullet in his head,” Jason said after a long moment of silence, the crackling fire the only sound in the room. “That he’s just a ghost I wouldn’t let go.”
“We promised each other at the start,” Elizabeth said as he pulled her across his lap, “that Sonny was something we would deal with together. You—the kids—this is everything I ever wanted in my life. There are days that I am so happy that I actually cry because I never thought I would deserve this.” She framed his beloved face with her hands. “We have a good life, Jason, but I don’t think I can live with myself knowing it came at Sonny’s expense. We sacrificed him to have it. And I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Jason leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers. “The way you love—the courage—” He shook his head. “I don’t have the words.”
“Every time Evie asks me her special story, I tell her about her mother that gave her away to best man she knew. I want Evie to know that her father loved just as much. We need to do this. For each other. For her. And for Sonny.”
“I’ll call tomorrow and make the arrangements.” He tucked her hair behind her eyes, his eyes on hers. “I remember the day I saw you again—when you came home. I was sitting on the docks, feeling more tired than I could ever remember.”
She tilted her head and smiled. “And I nagged you into telling me the truth—”
“That’s not how I remember it.” He shook his head, his own smile spreading. “You came down the steps, and you smiled at me. And by the time you left, I couldn’t remember why I was so tired. I just wanted to keep looking at you.”
“When we sat together, and I poked at you about Evie—I did it partly because I was hoping—” She bit her lip, sliding her fingers through his soft blond hair. “I was hoping you wouldn’t lie to me. And when you didn’t—I felt all those old butterflies. I just wanted to sit on that bench and talk to you for the rest of my life.”
“Thank you for coming home,” Jason murmured. “For not staying in San Francisco. For giving us another chance.”
“I couldn’t stay away,” Elizabeth replied. “I’d miss the smell of snow too much.”
He laughed. “Snow doesn’t smell,” he teased.
“Yes, it does,” she murmured, leaning down to kiss him again.