After Carly’s return in Chapter 15, Bittersweet was going to look very different for the next four chapters. Carly was going to come home, refuse to talk, and then go to custody for Michael, and then lose it. I got as far as writing the custody hearing, but it didn’t feel right.
What I did have was a brief conflict between Jason and Elizabeth in Chapter 16, in that final Brownstone scene. They were going to resolve it at that point, but it gave me this idea to make that conflict a bit more deep. To really hit the beats of 2002. I’m glad I cut the original story and I think you’re going to like where it goes, because I think, ultimately, it does good things for the Liason story.
However, I did cut almost 4000 words. Some of the scenes from those chapters stayed — I just rewrite them slightly, but there were a few I had to lose entirely. Here they are now. They’re not edited or beta’d. I hope you enjoy.
AJ and Courtney’s House: Living Room
“I don’t understand how the Play-Doh got in the carpet, Michael,” AJ said as he scrubbed the blue dried bits entangled in the threads of the gray carpet. “You were supposed to keep it on the table.”
“I know, Dad,” Michael said with wide brown eyes that shown with innocence and guile. “But then I was playing with my guys, and Yoda was lightsabering Darth. I sort of…” he flashed his white baby teeth. “I knocked it over. And then I didn’t see. I was trying to run from the Siths and…I stepped on it.”
AJ just stared at him. “That actually…sounds logical to me.” He handed Michael the sponge. “But it’s your turn to finish this. You’re old enough to clean up after yourself.”
Michael scowled but took the sponge. “Yeah, yeah, Grammy and Liz say that to me all the time but Lucas gets to leave his stuff everywhere and no one yells at him—”
The doorbell saved AJ from having to explain to a five-year-old that sometimes teenagers weren’t worth arguing with, and he rose to answer it.
He liked these afternoons with his son on Wednesdays. He had the overnight shift, which meant he slept until noon and Courtney left for work. And then, it was just the two of them for eight uninterrupted hours.
He had never expected to still have custody of Michael once Carly came back—had really thought Jason would eventually change his mind or that Carly would work whatever voodoo she usually did and AJ would at least be cut back to supervised visitation.
But AJ now had unofficial full custody. It was easier, Jason had told him, if Michael stayed with them from now on. Until the hearing. To…give the judge more to work with.
He and his brother were united for once in what was best for Michael, and AJ wanted to enjoy that for as long as he could. He knew that Jason was hoping the custody hearing would force Carly’s hand—that she would have to tell them what the hell had happened in April and why she had been gone for four months.
But if Carly hadn’t come clean in the last month, AJ…he wasn’t convinced she would tomorrow. Carly still thought a judge would look at the two of them and give her Michael. Even though she had never retained custody on the up and up, she was arrogant enough to think it would work this time.
AJ’s lawyer was confident that AJ would be awarded permanent full custody. No unofficial custody agreement, no Jason standing there, holding the strings—not that AJ had minded that part—but that Michael would be his son. Forever. Irrevocably.
And God he wanted that. He didn’t want Michael to lose Carly, permanently. And he hoped that he and Jason, Bobbie, Lucas, Elizabeth—all of the people who loved Michael could continue to be united in what was best for him. Because knowing every day he didn’t drink was another day he could be a father to his son—
That was worth everything.
When he opened his front door to find his grandfather standing there, AJ didn’t even grimace. Didn’t wince. Edward didn’t hold that power over him anymore.
He was just his grandfather, and AJ stepped back to welcome him into his home. “Hey. I didn’t know you were coming by.”
“Spontaneous decision,” Edward said. Michael turned to look at him with a considering eye. “Good afternoon, Michael.”
“Grandfather,” Michael said, kicking the carpet with the toe of his sneaker. “Hi. We were just playing.”
AJ frowned at the stilted tone his son had, but then remembered—they hadn’t seen one another since those clandestine visits to Michael’s school in May. He’d taken Michael to see his grandmother, his parents. Even Ned. But Edward had absented himself.
Doing penance? AJ didn’t think it was likely, but…maybe.
“Hey, why don’t you put away the rest of the Play-Doh and go into the family room to pick out some video games for us to play when Lucas comes by later?”
AJ waited until Michael had gathered the colored tubs of clay and left the room. “He’s still a little wary of you.”
“To be expected. I didn’t—I really didn’t intend to do any harm when I went to his school.” Edward lifted his chin. “I just…I wanted to know him.”
“I know. And you will.” AJ slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “What brings you by?”
“I know the custody hearing is tomorrow. I, ah, I wanted to go. To show my support. We all did. But—” He coughed lightly. “We—I wasn’t sure if you’d want—or need us there.”
“I—” AJ hesitated. He didn’t want to flaunt his family in front of the judge, particularly since it would be unfair to Carly who wouldn’t have any allies in the room. But at the same time—
He did want to his family there to support him. Not the support he’d once craved like the taste of vodka sliding down his throat—but he wanted the comfort of knowing that his family thought he was doing the right thing.
“If you want to come, that would be okay. I don’t know—I know how long it will be,” AJ told him. “I know I’ll be testifying. My lawyer is calling Jason and Bobbie. And probably Carly will testify. I don’t think Michael will have to talk. I hope not, anyway.”
“I—” Edward hesitated. “I know it was hard on you losing him. And we pushed you to get him back. I pushed too hard. Your grandmother always said I put too much pressure on you boys. I did the same to Alan and Tracy. I just wanted the best for you both, and instead, neither of my grandsons talk to me.” He looked away.
For a man who loved his family as fiercely as Edward Quartermaine, the loss of both the Quartermaine scions obviously weighed heavily on him. “I had to get away, Grandfather. I had to stop waiting for you to love me for me. And not have your disappointment weigh on me enough to make me drink. I don’t blame you for the pressure you put on me. You did the same to Jason, and he thrived.” Until AJ had stolen him away.
“I blame me for the way I reacted to it. For not being strong enough—”
“I blame me, too,” Edward said quietly. “You boys were smart. And you were good young men. Decent. Kind. I could see such potential in you both. You to carry on at ELQ, and Jason at the hospital. You were going to be the next generation, and I knew you would be great men. I just…I thought my way was the best.”
He cleared his throat. “But you and Jason went your own way, and I—I might not entirely approve of Jason’s line of work, but there’s no denying that you both grew up to be good men. You put Michael’s needs above your own last spring, AJ. And you’ve kept doing it. And Jason saw that. Before the rest of us. He gave you the chance with Michael. And I’m-I’m proud of you both. You’re the kind of father that neither Alan nor I could ever have been, and I know if and when Jason has children of his own, he’ll do the same.”
“And your wife—Courtney. I know—we were harsh. We didn’t see her worth.” Edward paused. “We see it now. It doesn’t matter, of course, because you saw it all along. And I know you don’t want to come back—to the house. But I thought…in time, we might discuss…I know you like your job. I just…I hope you know ELQ is always here for you.”
AJ hesitated. ELQ was the dream. He did like his job, but it didn’t satisfy his soul the way the corporate world did. He liked making deals, making decisions. The power of it all. But…
“I don’t know. It’s a lot of pressure to be in that job,” he said slowly. “Maybe one day. But for now, I have be the man my wife and son deserve. But…I do miss the company, Grandfather. So maybe we can talk about it one day.”
Elizabeth and Gia’s Apartment: Living Room
“I shouldn’t be nervous,” Courtney said, pouring her second glass of wine. “I’m not.”
“Not at all,” Gia said with a side eye glance at Elizabeth as she raised her own glass of Moscato to her lips. “But we’re cutting you off after this. You’re supposed to be the golden stepmother tomorrow. Wouldn’t do if you had a wine headache.”
“And besides,” Gia continued when Elizabeth just sipped her wine. “You got nothing to worry about. Carly is not a good candidate for visitation, much less getting custody. Is anyone even testifying for her?”
“Nope,” Elizabeth murmured. “I feel guilty.”
“Oh, hell.” Gia rolled her eyes. “I knew it.” She held out her hand to Courtney. “Five bucks, Quartermaine. You owe me.”
“What?” Elizabeth demanded as Courtney grumbled and slapped a crumbled five-dollar bill in her roommate’ s hands. “What did you bet on?”
“You feel guilty because Jason is going to testify against Carly. And you think it’s because of you,” Courtney said. She wrinkled her nose. “I thought we were on the same page about her. Anti-Christ, yeah? She doesn’t deserve—”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong, my esteemed friend. Elizabeth gives not one single fuck about that psycho. She’s guilty because—”
“If it weren’t for me, Jason would be helping Carly. And maybe—” She huffed. “Maybe he’ll be irritated with himself later for it.”
“And hence, irritated with you.”
“Hence the guilt,” Courtney said, finishing Gia’s thought. “Elizabeth—”
“I mean, you’re completely right. He’s not helping her because of what you said to him—”
“Gia, this isn’t not helping—”
“But I think you’re wrong about why,” Gia said, ignoring Courtney. “You made it clear to him. You did what I cannot imagine Robin ever did or you did it in a way that scared the living shit out out of him. Because you were not going to play Back-Up Barbie the way Robin did. You demanded he respect you.” She wiped an imaginary tear. “I’m so goddamn proud.”
“Jason isn’t going to be irritated with you,” Courtney told her. “I wasn’t here for Robin—”
“I wasn’t either. But I’ve seen the way Carly is around him, and that’s even when she was married to Sonny. She thinks Jason is hers.” Gia hesitated. “He’s going to get her out of trouble because he’s still Michael’s uncle, and Carly is still that kid’s mother, God help him. And because he loves Bobbie.”
Elizabeth hesitated. “I know that. And I never said he had to completely walk away from her. I get that they need to know what she’s up to. Especially if Bobbie was right and Carly was being fed a bunch of crap, but I don’t know. I mean, I think maybe I wasn’t super fair or didn’t handle it right—”
“Is there a right way to handle your boyfriend’s ex-whatever coming back from the dead?” Courtney asked. “Because if there’s a manual and none of you bitches have given it to me, you’re all in for it—”
“Look, if Carly had shown all upset and explained right away what happened, this all would have been different. Because the Carly that went over the cliff was not the raging bitch I knew last year—”
“Or that I’ve known for the last few,” Elizabeth agreed. “If I honestly felt like she was in trouble and scared or something, I don’t know—maybe I wouldn’t have even worried about her and the way she treats him. I would have given her more space—”
“But eventually, this was gonna be an issue.”
“She would have been waiting for the first opportunity to go after him,” Elizabeth agreed. “I wouldn’t—I thought she’d moved on. Jason talked her into marrying Sonny. He thought they were good together. But he told me that the second she thought he and I were fighting, she tried to seduce him with Michael.”
“She didn’t think that through,” Gia said. “Played that card way too early. Which almost makes you wonder if she was testing him.”
“I’m just—he’s not chasing after her. I know he and Sonny are looking into it, but she hasn’t taken over the way I thought she might.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “And I think that actually scares me more.”
“I thought that what you wanted,” Courtney began, but Gia nodded.
“You’re thinking back to the Carly of old. She’s channeling that destructive anger again, so it makes sense to think she’d act the way she did then. When she wanted something at Deception, she just kept at it. Relentless. Laura would eventually give in just to shut her up.”
“If Carly wanted Michael back, if she really thought she had a shot at convincing Jason to be a family with her and Michael—she wouldn’t have just…stopped. Unless Jason isn’t telling me something—and I don’t think that’s it—she hasn’t bothered with him. Or Sonny. Bobbie saw her today for the first time. And—”
“She hasn’t come near the house or Michael,” Courtney added.
“If she really wanted Michael, why did she just file custody papers and sit back? She doesn’t know that you basically threatened to walk if Jason so much as lifted a finger to help her—”
“That’s not how it was—”
Gia rolled her eyes. “It’s what it boils down to. Either way, she has no way of knowing that. How many people told her—just tell us where you were Carly, and this can go away. You said it yourself. Had she just told Jason that night, Jason probably would have tried to do something with custody.”
Courtney nodded. “AJ’s been worried for weeks that Carly will come clean and that Jason will revoke the custody agreement. Not that Jason would—not like, harshly, I mean. But that—I don’t know—AJ doesn’t trust Carly. And he’s trying hard to trust Jason, but—”
“But Jason has gone to extreme lengths so that Carly can keep Michael,” Elizabeth said. “And so has Sonny.”
“You said Jason and Sonny think whatever Carly was doing is connected to them somehow. I think they have to be right. Because otherwise, custody hearing be damned, the Carly we know would have not waited for a custody hearing.”
“She’d be hassling Jason every day,” Courtney said.
“Pulling fire alarms,” Elizabeth murmured. “Someone is pulling her strings.”
“Someone who doesn’t want Jason and Sonny to know where she is.”
“Which means this custody hearing is part of a plan,” Elizabeth said slowly. “If Carly loses custody tomorrow—”
“How much you wanna bet that whoever is winding her up about everything else has told her — play it cool, Carly. They don’t matter. Ignore them. You’ll go to court, and I’ll make sure you get your son back.”
“But why?” Courtney asked, exasperated. “What does this have to do with anything. How would help anyone—”
“Because Carly isn’t going to get custody tomorrow,” Elizabeth said, meeting Gia’s eyes. Her best friend nodded. “She’s going to lose. And she’s going to lose hard. Because everyone is testifying against her and she’ll probably refuse to tell anyone anything. She doesn’t have to. The fix is in.”
“No way Carly goes through everything she’s been through with Michael and just sits back to wait for a custody hearing. She wouldn’t leave it to chance that way. Unless she knew something.”
“But she’s going to lose custody,” Courtney said. “If you’re right—”
“If Carly loses custody after her mother and Jason get up on that stand to tell the judge Michael is better off with AJ…” Elizabeth said, and simply stopped, pressing a hand to her stomach. “Christ.” She reached for her cell phone. “I have to call Jason.”
Port Charles Courthouse: Hallway
“Gia, you could look a little less excited,” Elizabeth muttered as she and her roommate stepped off the elevator. Ahead of her, she could see Jason, Bobbie, Courtney, and AJ huddled in front of the doors speaking quietly with a well-dressed redhead who must be AJ’s attorney.
“I can’t help it. I get that this is all emotional,” Gia said, “but you know I don’t have a dog in the fight. I’m just here for the entertainment.”
“And to support you and Courtney, but there’s no law that says I can’t enjoy it.” But she rolled her shoulders and somehow, managed to ease down the energy.
Elizabeth could understand that—part of her was almost looking forward to seeing Carly raked over the coals—but at the same time, she wondered what could have happened to the woman in the four months she had been gone.
She had told Jason her suspicions the night before—that the custody hearing was part of some larger scheme. That Carly’s strange behavior could only explained if she was following someone else’s instructions and expected to win. Jason saw her logic, agreed with it to a certain extent, but couldn’t quite allow himself to think Carly could follow directions for a full month.
Blinders, she had told with some annoyance. Carly could be extremely focused when she wanted to be, but Jason wouldn’t believe that. For all of his protestations that Carly wasn’t his friend anymore, he still treated her that way. Still thought he knew her. He thought the custody hearing was a distraction, and that when push came to shove, Carly would tell the truth.
Which meant Elizabeth would have to be on her guard for him.
“Hey,” she said as she and Gia joined the group. She slid her arm around Jason’s waist waist, his went around her shoulders as she curled into a half-embrace. “Sorry we’re late. Gia got into an argument with the officer who gives out tickets in our neighborhood.”
“It was 9:01 and we were right in front of the car. She wants to write me a ticket, she’s going to have do it over my dead body,” Gia declared. “I threw out Marcus’s name, but of course she’s a bitter ex-girlfriend.” She scowled.
“She nearly got us arrested,” Elizabeth offered with a roll of her eyes.
Courtney managed a smile, and AJ had some amusement in his eyes. Which is why she had told the story.
“How’d you get out of it?” Bobbie asked, folding her arms rightly across her chest. “The last time Gia got into an argument with the parking officer—”
“By the way, when are you due in court for that?” Courtney asked.
“There is no way that she can get me for double parking. By the time she got there, the other car was gone, which means at best, I’m a shitty parker—”
“You keep getting cited for disorderly conduct, they’ll never let you be a lawyer,” AJ told her. “Right, Diane?”
“Well, if you have the right attorney…” the redhead produced a card from nowhere. “Diane Miller.”
Gia took the card. “Let me tell you, if my idiot brother keeps breaking the hearts of the female officers in the parking authority, I’m gonna kill him. You do criminal law, too?”
And this time, she saw a ghost of a smile at the corners of Jason’s lips which made her feel much better.
“Anyway,” Gia continued, tucking the card away, “I would still be there fighting for the common man—”
“You were parked illegally, Gia,” Elizabeth said, rolling her eyes.
“—but Elizabeth started to hassle me about places we needed to be. So I took the ticket. But I’m not happy.”
With the end of the story, the group fell in silence again as AJ looked at his watch. “Almost time,” he murmured. “I’m going to try keep you and Jason from having to testify, Bobbie—”
“We’ve talked about this,” Diane interjected. “They’re important—”
“I don’t want to do any of this,” AJ cut in. “I never wanted to go to court. We offered her lawyer all kinds of things—”
“AJ,” Jason said after a long moment. “This is the last thing any of us wants. Because if Carly keeps pushing this, Michael will have to testify. After everything we did to keep that from happening—” He shook his head. “I don’t want to get on the stand and say Carly shouldn’t have custody. But if she’s going to leave him for four months without a word and not bother to explain herself, she shouldn’t have custody. Not full custody.”
“I agree with Jason. I’m in no hurry to take custody away from Carly because I know she loves Michael. But I can’t support what she’s doing,” Bobbie added. “Michael comes first.”
“Should we have kept Michael from her this last month?” AJ asked his lawyer. “Won’t that count against us?”
Jason opened his mouth but hesitated a moment before saying. “Carly said I should have taken Michael and left. When I realized I would lose in a custody hearing.”
Diane pursed her lips. “Would you be willing to state that if Carly brings up the lack of visitation? I can argue that AJ had a good reason to worry that she would leave the jurisdiction.”
“Yeah,” but Jason sounded less assured than he had earlier.
The elevator doors opened, and Carly stepped off with a woman at her side. “That must be Jordan Baines, her lawyer,” Bobbie murmured. “She doesn’t look happy.”
Carly glared at the group and then scowled as the elevator opened again and a trio of Quartermaines stepped out—Edward, Lila, and Ned. “Why am I not surprised? Good. You can all watch me me win and walk away with my son.”
She lifted her chin and strode through the doors.
“Good luck,” Lila said softly. “Though I wish this weren’t happening at all.” At her side, neither Edward nor Ned spoke a word.
“Let’s get this over with,” AJ said as he started towards the courtroom.
The hearing was as bad, if not worse, than Jason thought it would be.
Carly’s lawyer attempted to make a cogent case that Carly had not agreed to the custody arrangement with her ex-husband, making it invalid.
Diane countered with a death certificate, the court’s legal declaration naming Jason guardian. Therefore, Diane declared, Jason had the right to negotiate any agreement he saw fit. With copies of AJ’s paternal rights petition and the notarized custody agreement—this was a black and white case. AJ had unofficial custody thanks to his brother, and Carly would have to overturn Jason’s guardianship if she wanted Michael back.
“And since Ms. Benson has declined to inform anyone of her whereabouts from April 9 through July 28, Mr. Morgan has not seen a need to revisit custody of his nephew, so Ms. Benson’s suit against Mr. Quartermaine is invalid. However, we are countersuing in order to streamline today’s hearing. Mr. Quartermaine seeks an official custody order, awarding him full custody.”
“Thank you, Ms. Miller. Do you have any witnesses, Ms. Baines?” the judge asked.
“I do,” but the woman sounded even less thrilled than she had during the opening statement. “We call Caroline Benson.”
With an arrogant air that Jason didn’t recognize—that she had never held herself with before—Carly was sworn in.
Elizabeth had been right, he saw now with a sinking feeling. Carly was too confident, too sure of herself. Her lawyer had obviously argued with her over the weakness of her case. And yet, she sat there. Sure of herself.
Someone was giving Carly her marching orders, and she was listening to them.
Jordan Baines took Carly through her difficult pregnancy, and to her credit, Carly owned up to her initial mistakes. Her lies to AJ. Her affair with Sonny. She had not been a good wife, but she had always been a good mother.
And in fact, AJ had not been a bad father when sober. But Carly couldn’t trust him, she told the court tearfully. After he had pushed her down the steps, after the death of her second son, she could never bring herself to trust AJ again, and it broke her heart that Jason had.
In front of him, Jason saw AJ’s shoulders slump and felt a bit of pity. It was still an uncomfortable feeling, but Jason couldn’t bring himself to blame AJ any longer. He’d been wrong. He’d fought with Carly, but he could understand now how it could have been a tragic accident.
And AJ’s sobriety had to count for something. A person could change for the better. Otherwise, what was the point?
And he saw how Carly would use it as a weapon for the rest of AJ’s life to punish him. The way that the Quartermaines had used the accident.
Jordan took Carly through her marriage to Sonny and the early months of owning the club and doing well. And then simply stopped.
There were no questions about the four months Carly had been gone. It was if they hadn’t happened.
“She didn’t ask anything about it,” Elizabeth murmured, her hand tightening in his. “Why? She has to know Diane—”
But Jordan was already sitting down, and Diane Miller stood.
“That was a lovely account of the first five years of Michael’s life, Ms. Benson.” Diane tilted her head. “How did he like kindergarten?”
Carly hesitated. “Fine,” she said warily. “He liked his teachers. Made friends.”
“What did he make you for Mother’s Day?”
Carly pressed her lips together. “I don’t know.”
“He made his grandmother a lovely crayon drawing of his family.” Diane picked it up, held it up so Carly and the judge could see it.
Carly looked at Bobbie whose eyes were shining with tears, but Diane continued. “He drew his entire family. That’s him. I think that’s supposed to be his uncle Lucas. He told me they were playing video games. And then there’s his grandma Bobbie with a doctor’s bag. And his uncle Jason on his motorcycle, and Elizabeth Webber—he calls her Liz—with a paintbrush. He drew his family, Ms. Benson.”
Diane laid it down in front of her. “You’re in this photo, too, aren’t you?”
Carly looked down at it and took a deep breath. “I’m at the top.”
“Mommy,” Diane said, reading the scrawl under the blonde figure at the top of the drawing. “You’re surrounded by clouds. Why do you think that is?”
Carly closed her eyes. “I’m sure I don’t know,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Did you see Michael on Mother’s Day?”
“What about the Fourth of July?” Diane set a picture down. “Lucas Jones took pictures of Michael with members of his family at the Port Charles Park celebration. Are you in any of them?”
Carly didn’t even bother to look down. “No.”
“Are you sure?” Diane asked with a friendly smile. “Let’s make sure. Here’s a really nice one of Michael and Lucas. Oh, I like this one of Michael with his stepmother. She seems like him—and here’s a good one of Michael with his uncle Jason and Elizabeth—”
“Your Honor,” Jordan Baines said with a tired sigh. She stood. “What’s the point?”
“Move on, Ms. Miller.”
Diane gathered the photos up. “Ms. Benson, did you see your son between April 9 and July 28 of this year?”
“Did he know where you were?”
“I—I don’t know.”
“Did you tell anyone where you were?”
Diane arched a brow. “Where were you?”
“I don’t have to answer that.” Carly lifted her chin. “I love my son. I am a good mother.”
“A good mother who walked away from her child, giving him reason to draw a picture of you on Mother’s Day…in the clouds. You suppose that means he thought you were in Heaven?”
Carly didn’t answer. Just looked away.
Why wouldn’t she just tell them? What could be so awful?
Diane waited another moment. “I have no more questions for this witness.”
She took her seat.
The judge hesitated. “Ms. Benson, is it your contention that you do not have to tell this court where you were during the months of April, May, June, and July?”
“I am saying that I had full custody of my son. And when I was not available, Jason was to be his guardian. I never agreed to allow AJ Quartermaine to have custody,” Carly said, gritting her teeth. “He had no rights. He signed them away.”
The judge sat back, his sigh heavy. “Do you have any further witnesses, Ms. Baines?”
“Ms. Miller, I see that you’ve listed three witnesses here. Alan James Quartermaine, Jr., Barbara Spencer, and Jason Morgan.”
“Yes, Your Honor—” But even as Diane stood, the judge waved for her to take a seat.
“Do they plan to testify to the same facts? That Ms. Benson has been absent from her son’s life since April 9?”
The judge nodded. “Mr. Morgan. Stand up.”
“Your Honor,” Jordan protested. “This is irregular—”
Jason got to his feet. “Your Honor.”
“You’re the child’s legal guardian.”
“Is there a reason you have chosen not to vacate your guardianship and return custody to the child’s previous custodial parent?”
“I—” Jason hesitated, looked at Carly. “I don’t know where she was. Michael didn’t know where she was. I don’t know if she’s in trouble. She won’t say anything. I thought…all things considered, it would be best if Michael stayed in a stable situation. Which he has with AJ and Courtney.”
“So if Ms. Benson just tells you where she’s been, you would vacate guardianship?”
“I—” Jason stopped abruptly. “I don’t know.”
“Fair answer. You can sit.” The judge looked at Carly, still seated in the witness stand. “Ms. Benson, this is your last chance. You abandoned your son for four months. Where did you go? And why did you say nothing?”
Carly shook her head.
“Carly,” Bobbie pleaded. “Just tell us—”
“Carly, Michael deserves to know,” AJ said.
But she said nothing. Just stared at Jason as if he should have said something. Fixed it. How could Jason do anything but put Michael first? She hadn’t left him any choice.
The judge sighed. “All right. I am awarding custody of the minor child, Michael Benson, to the child’s biological and legal father on record, Alan James Quartermaines, Jr. Ms. Benson is to have supervised visititation at the agreement of Mr. Quartermaine, and I am ordering three months of counseling.”
Carly’s face paled. “Wait, what? What did you just do? What—”
“Here we go,” Gia murmured from next to Elizabeth. “Liftoff in 5, 4—”
“Gia,” Elizabeth hissed.
And I stopped writing there. These scenes are fine, but I think what I ended up writing is ultimately better.