I was having trouble visualizing the end of the story, but I knew how I wanted it to start, so I started to write hoping it would assist me in finishing the outline. It did, but I ended up not quite liking it this. I realized I was telling this scene all wrong — it needed to be Jason’s voice, not Elizabeth’s. So once I knew I had to be inside his head, it worked so much better. And Jason couldn’t open up to her so fast, so I think my actual opening works better for the characters.
But for funsies, here’s the original opening. Because it never made the move from Scrivener, where I do the rough writing, to Microsoft Word where I do italics and typo checks, it’s messy and unformatted.
Elm Street Pier
Elizabeth Webber tightened her grip on her cup of hot chocolate and stopped at the top of the stairs. Below her, she saw something that made her think she had gone back in time five years.
Jason Morgan, at the top of the other stairs, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, and his face looking as though someone was kicking him.
The image of standing here all those years ago was so vivid, so strong, she reflexively glanced down, expecting to see AJ Quartermaine and his son, Michael, looking at the ELQ crane over the harbor.
Instead, the pier was empty.
She looked back at him now, and wondered if she should say something. They hadn’t been friends for so long, but he’d been there for her the previous winter—had done what he could to keep her from going to jail.
Once…she would have just approached him without worry. Put a hand on his arm, asked what was wrong. Could she still do that? Despite…everything?
He moved then, and started down the stairs, each step seeming heavier than the one before it. His eyes were lined with exhaustion, his shoulders were slumped. When he sat on the bench, her decision was made.
She stepped down her own stairs and started towards the bench. “Hey. I recognize that look.”
Jason looked up and blinked at her for a moment, before offering a wan smile. “Elizabeth. Emily-Emily told me you were home for the holidays.” He slid over on the bench, and she sat down. “When did you get in?”
“The day before Thanksgiving.” Elizabeth hesitated. “You look as tired as I felt the first two months of Cameron’s life, so I guess..” She cleared her throat. “It’s the single parent syndrome, I think. Like kids just know there’s no backup, no second person, so they just…refuse to sleep for two months straight. I know…I know Cameron did.”
Jason was quiet for a moment, and she bit her lip. “Should I…not have said that? I’m sorry—”
“No, no.” He shook his head. “I…yeah. I haven’t…really been sleeping much.” He leaned forward, his elbows resting on his thighs. “You’re living in California?”
“Um, yes.” She shifted a little. “I was just…going to stay for a little while, but…things happened and after Cameron was born, I decided to stay on.” She sipped her hot chocolate. “I sold a few paintings while I was there, and I’m…supposed to have a show in New York after the new year.”
His smile was more genuine now, and he straightened. “That’s really great. I-I’m happy for you.”
“I was really just going to come home for the holidays, but when I stepped off the plane…” She sighed and looked out over the grey winter waters of the harbor. “My grandmother, she looked…old. Tired. I…hadn’t seen it before, but I guess I was thinking about Lila, and how…” She hesitated. “Should I not mention that either?”
He leaned back against the bench, his shoulders still slumped. “Emily said you came home for a few days for the funeral.”
“Yeah…I…really loved Lila,” she murmured. “She was always so wonderful to me, and she meant so much to this town, to…” She wrinkled her nose. “To your family,” she finally said, because there was no way to separate the two sometimes. “I…saw you there. I was going to say something, but you were with…”
“Sam.” Jason nodded. “Yeah. I saw you, too…” He glanced at her. “With Ric.”
“Yeah.” She stared at the plastic top of her hot chocolate. “His last ditch effort to get me to call off the divorce. Didn’t work, obviously. He’s married to Alexis now, so I guess he’s relieved I didn’t…take him up on that offer.”
“I’d forgotten about that…” Jason said, almost more to himself. “I think it was the same night that…” He trailed off.
“This is so awkward,” Elizabeth said after a long moment. “I don’t know what to say to you. Should…I say congratulations on your daughter, I’m sorry for your loss?” She huffed. “It’s just…there aren’t words, but I feel like I should say something.”
“It’s all right.” He removed his hand from his pocket and rubbed the edge of his eyebrow. “Not much to say, really. Sam…died. And now I have a daughter.”
“Emily said you named her Evangeline.” Elizabeth said. “Or more accurately, she said you didn’t know what to name her, so Emily suggested Evangeline Grace and you said fine.”
He nodded. “Yeah. She calls her Evie, so I do now, too. It sounds…” He was quiet for a long moment. “It sounds awful, but I couldn’t name her. Because…it wasn’t supposed to be my job.”
She frowned, but let that go. “Well, it’s not like you thought you’d be doing it alone, Jason.” She shifted again on the bench. “I don’t…know what you’re going through, not exactly, but I guess I…I remember what it’s like to plan a life around someone who just…goes away.” Her sigh was a soft one now. “And never comes back.”
Jason frowned. “Lucky did come back.”
“Not really.” Elizabeth shook her head. “That’s…not the point, anyway. I just…I remember feeling like I couldn’t do everyday things, especially not the things we’d planned to do together. We were supposed to go to New York so I could go to art school.My acceptance came in after…the fire.” She exhaled slowly. “I didn’t go. Because it was something I was supposed to do with Lucky. So…it doesn’t sound awful, Jason, that you found it difficult to name her when it was something you were supposed to do with her mother.”
“Yeah.” His eyes were distant now, looking out over the water. “Yeah, that…makes sense, I guess. Sam never…settled on anything. We talked about Lila, but Sam wanted to wait until she was born. To pick a name that suited her.”
Her heart ached for him. “I’m so…sorry that you lost her, Jason. You guys were creating a family, and to lose someone you love at a moment like that—”
“I—” He started to cut in, but stopped, looking slightly bewildered. “I mean, yeah, I guess we were going to be a family, but I wasn’t…” He shook his head. “Never mind.”
Elizabeth paused. “Jason?” she said softly. “Is…something wrong? I mean, other…than the obvious. You looked…so sad standing there. Did something happen today?”
“No. I just…” He tilted his head back, the muscles of his neck tense. “I don’t know the right answers anymore. What I’m supposed to tell you.”
She drew her brows together. “Jason—” She broke off. “There are no right or wrong answers. There’s just…how you feel. You don’t have to tell me anything, you know. We’re not close, anymore. I realized that when Emily called me, and I found out your daughter’s birth and name from her. I-I didn’t even know you were having a child until your grandmothe’rs funeral. And I realized that we only know each other through Em, now but—”
“That’s not true.” He met her eyes. “I mean, no, I guess we’re not close, but…” He stopped, clearly struggling with something. “I just don’t want to lie to you.”
And the niggling thought in the back of Elizabeth’s mind—the memory of knowing that Sam McCall had been seeing Sonny Corinthos before Elizabeth left town, that at the time Evie would have been conceived, Jason was still married to Courtney—came clear. She’d thought the timeline was odd when she came home in July, but it was so clearly true. Sam was living with Jason, she was at his grandmother’s funeral.
“Then don’t,” she said softly. “You know that anything you ever said to me would go no further, if that’s what you wanted. Just because we haven’t been…friends the way we were once, it doesn’t change anything for me. I will always care about you, Jason, and I hope you feel the same about me. If you can’t talk to me, then talk to Emily or…I don’t know, Sonny or Carly.”
And she saw the way his face tensed at their names, and she knew that the couple was causing the pain she saw in his eyes. The grief she’d attributed to losing Sam was meant for Sonny and Carly.
“I changed the paternity test results,” Jason said so quietly that she almost didn’t hear them. “I didn’t…really think it through. I wanted to protect Michael and Morgan—Carly said she’d walk out if the baby was Sonny’s. She’d take the boys, and it would start all over again.” He closed his eyes. “They were dragging Michael into court, making him choose which parent to live with, and he was so angry, so upset—he told the judge he wanted to live with me. People didn’t fight around me.”
“So you wanted the world to think it was your child so Carly would stay and not disrupt the boys’ lives.” And it made a sad sort of sense to her—since he’d returned home two years earlier, his entire existence had been predicated on cleaning up after Sonny and Carly.
“Yeah.” He cleared his throat. “Sam…hated it. She loved Sonny, you know. I mean, right up until a few months before Evie was born, she thought he’d change her mind. So she went along with it, hoping that if Sonny saw me planning to raise their child, he’d…wake up. But Sam…didn’t realize…”
“That Sonny would always choose Carly.” The wind whipped past her face, a tendril flying into her eyes. She pushed it back behind her ear. “And you fell in love with the baby.”
“I…yeah.” Some of the tension bled away, and his face relaxed. “I saw her grow and felt her kicking. Sonny did get annoyed by it, but he didn’t leave Carly. He just…” Jason shook his head. “He had another affair with Sam. While Carly was across the hall, he’d take Sam to an apartment in the building. It went on almost a month.”
“What happened when Sam realized nothing changed?”
“He told her that she could take the baby and go away, maybe to the island or Puerto Rico. He’d never have to tell Carly about her, and they could be a family that way.”
“Like a dirty little secret,” Elizabeth murmured. “She and her child weren’t enough for him to acknowledge publicly. She could be his mistress, though.”
“Sam was…” Jason looked at her. “I don’t know how much you knew about Sam, but she…was a con artist. She made Sonny think she was okay with it. And she wanted him to sign some paperwork, so that the baby would be taken care of. Instead…she made him sign a termination of parental rights.”
Elizabeth couldn’t help the smile that stretched across her face. “I think I would have liked her.”
“Yeah.” Jason was smiling , too. “She never took crap from anyone, except Sonny. So she did that, and then…” He hesitated. “After she gave birth, she was bleeding. They…they couldn’t stop it, so she begged me…” His voice was slightly hoarse now. “She begged me not to let Sonny and Carly take her baby. They would forget all about Sam, and her daughter would never know her mother.”
“So you agreed,” she murmured. She slid closer on the bench to him. “And you’ve been raising her since Sam died. Which can’t be helping things with Sonny.”
“No. He was angry, but Carly still doesn’t know the truth, so as long as he doesn’t want her to know…” With a short breath of air, he sighed. “He keeps calling in the middle of the night for me to take care of things, and lately, he calls in the middle of the day. I haven’t been able to hire anyone to help me, so I have to take Evie to Carly in the middle of the night. By the time I get back, she’s crying. She’s not sleeping right either.”
He scrubbed his hands over his face. “I-I don’t know why I told you all of that. I haven’t…told Emily. She just…she knows I’m not sleeping. She’s with Evie now.”
“You and I have always had a habit of telling each other things we don’t tell anyone else,” Elizabeth said with a soft smile. “I guess that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.”
“No.” He looked at her, and she liked to think some of the pain had dissipated, that he didn’t look as haunted. “So you’re coming back to Port Charles.”
“Yep.” Elizabeth offered a smile. “Already back. I have to fly out after Christmas to tie up some loose ends, but I’m back. Cam and I are staying with my grandmother for now until I find something with good lighting.” She wrinkled her nose. “Would you believe they condemned my studio?”
They both looked at her old building, a sagging mess that hunched over the pier. “I can’t believe they waited this long.”
“Brat.” She punched him lightly in the shoulder. “I loved that place. It was the first time I felt independent, like I could be strong on my own.” Elizabeth looked back at him. “I know things are hard right now, so if there’s anything I can do…even if it’s just a baby-sitter in the middle of the day when you don’t want to leave Evie with Sonny or Carly, give me a call. My cell is still the same.”
“I’ll do that,” he said.
“I should go,” she said after a moment. “My gram is watching Cam, and I don’t want to leave her with him too long.” She stood and adjusted the strap of her bag over her shoulder. “Jason…” When he met her eyes, she offered him a smile. “Congratulations on your daughter. I’m sure she’s beautiful.”