Note: these excerpts are severely not edited and are from the first draft. Some of this may be rewritten or not even be in the final version. They’re also not from the same chapter.
Elizabeth’s Condo: Living Room
Elizabeth’s possessions did not fill much of the space in the condo that Nikolas had found for her. A few shelves in the living room, some rungs in the closet, and several drawers in the bureau. Somewhere in her life, she had acquiring things and the result was that her new home looked like a hotel room.
But Nikolas, God love him, said nothing as she handed him the Styrofoam package from Kelly’s. “I really didn’t need so much space,” she told him.
He arched a brow. “A one-bedroom apartment is too much space?”
She managed a half-hearted smirk as she opened her own container. Her appetite had not yet returned, but she was an adult and she knew she had to put something into her body in order to keep it going. She cut the grilled chicken in half and poked at it with her fork. “Well, I suppose to a man who has five thousand bedrooms—”
“Twelve, but who’s counting?”
She laughed at that, and his expression relaxed. He was so worried about her, and she didn’t want that. She didn’t want anyone to worry about her. “Thank you for all of this. I…I would have gone back to my studio and I never would have…”
Felt comfortable. Even the door Jason had had installed wouldn’t have been enough to allow her to sleep. Not after everything she had been through.
“Well, Jason and Sonny suggested the Harborview, which has better security, and I wanted you at Wyndemere where you would never have to lift a finger,” Nikolas said. “A doorman building downtown was probably the best compromise. I…” He hesitated. “I was surprised when you agreed.”
Elizabeth sighed, sipped her water. “I was going to argue, but I couldn’t….Sonny was right. Once Ric made bail…how could I trust a restraining order? I need…I need to put my life together. Figure out what’s next. And I can’t do that if I’m always looking over my shoulder.”
“You are family to me,” Nikolas told her. “I haven’t always been particularly skilled at showing that.” His cheeks flushed. “I put Lucky first, and then myself. I never should have done that. You should have been able to come to me—” He swallowed. “Anyway, that’s water under the bridge.”
“Definitely.” Elizabeth managed another smile and even ate some of the chicken. “Have you talked to Emily? We spent an hour on the phone today.”
“Yes. Did she tell you I practically had to blackmail her into staying in LA while you were in the hospital?” Nikolas asked.
“If she had left her summer program, she wouldn’t be able to graduate early,” Elizabeth said. “And I want her to move home as much as anyone else, so I told her to stop worrying about it. We’ll catch up at Christmas. Letters. Emails. But it was good to hear from her, to know she’s in my corner.”
“She’s worried about Jason,” Nikolas wiped his mouth with a napkin, then set it on the table. “Courtney called to complain he isn’t setting a new date.”
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. Thinking about Courtney never made her particularly happy and neither did reminders that Jason was planning to marry her. Fine, he didn’t care about her that way anymore but she couldn’t understand what he saw in Courtney. “Carly’s still recovering. I’m sure Jason’s just…”
“Carly’s been home almost a month,” Nikolas said dryly. “And as Emily told me, if Jason wanted to marry Courtney and wait, they could set a date for a few months away. Refusing to have the conversation means he doesn’t want to marry her and can’t figure out how to tell her.”
“It’s not really my business—”
“And Emily thinks it’s because Courtney was a royal pain in the ass while Carly was missing.”
“I forgot Emily came home for the wedding,” Elizabeth said after a moment. “We…we weren’t able to catch each other.” She’d been newly married, still struggling with the miscarriage that she hadn’t told anyone about. And then…Carly had gone missing.
Nikolas, mercifully, didn’t press the matter. “I bring it up because I doubt she discussed Jason with you.”
“No,” Elizabeth said, drawing out the final syllable. “Not as much.”
“And I know Jason has been around a lot, making sure you’re okay. Keeping Ric out of your hair. He was supposed to help you yesterday, wasn’t he?”
“I had already packed,” she murmured, thinking about the letter she had received. She was relieved Jason had taken it, disposed of it for her. “But yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s not…it’s not like we’re—” Friends. Or anything. But she couldn’t finish the statement. He had been so concerned for her, so caring and solicitous.
Almost like he had been her Jason again.
“Courtney is not a topic I could really discuss with him,” Elizabeth said instead. “It’s usually better when we leave it off the table. She’d do better to nag Jason herself.”
“That’s what I told her.” Nikolas lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug. “He’ll never be my favorite person,” he said, “but after getting to know Ric Lansing, I’m suddenly a major fan of Jason Morgan and Sonny Corinthos.”
She laughed at that, and then tears stung her eyes. She couldn’t stop them once they had started. “I’m sorry,” she managed, turning away from Nikolas as he stood and rounded the small table to kneel in front of her. “This keeps happening—”
“Hey, you never have to hide how you feel from me. Not ever again,” he promised. “I’m just…I’m worried about you, Liz. This is good step. Accepting help from me, from Sonny. But I need you to be okay. Not just….” He gestured at her chest, which still held the scar from her chest beneath the black tank top she wore. “But all of you.”
“You can tell me everything you’re thinking, everything you’re feeling, and it doesn’t mean I would be able to do or say the right thing,” he continued. “Bobbie wanted you to talk to Gail Baldwin. Did you?”
She sighed an swiped at her tears. “God, Nikolas—”
“This last year has been so awful,” he said. “Losing Audrey at Christmas time. The baby. Carly, Ric—I think Bobbie’s right. I think you need more support than I can give. Than Jason can give.”
She sighed, looked away. “I just…I’m afraid if I open up to her…if I start talking, if I tell Gail everything…I’ll just completely fall apart.” Elizabeth closed her eyes, the tears still sliding down her face. “I’m so fucking tired of falling apart.”
Nikolas hesitated for a moment, but then spoke. “Maybe that’s because you never finished putting yourself back together all those years ago.”
She stared at him for a long moment, and then huffed. “God, I hate when you’re right.”
General Hospital: Gail Bailwin’s Office
Gail Baldwin still looked the same, though she had finally allowed her hair to gray. It was still immaculately kept and cut in a short curled style that made Elizabeth feel as though the clock had been turned back to those early days of her therapy.
She sat across from Gail on a peach sofa that was a comfortable upgrade from the pea green she’d sat on before. Her hands were in her lap, the fingers twisting together.
“It’s been a while since you came to see me,” Gail said with a soft smile. God, she reminded Elizabeth of Audrey. Sitting in that soft pink suit with her perfectly matched accessories. Her eyes filled and she looked away. She missed her grandmother so very much. “I’m sorry, dear. I didn’t—”
“The last time I saw you—and the first time I’d seen you in a while…” Elizabeth sighed and managed a half smile. “Gram’s funeral. You just…I wish she were here. I’d feel steadier if she were.”
“I miss Audrey very much. She and Steve…they were the heartbeat of this hospital, long after your grandmother retired. It doesn’t feel real that she’s gone.” Gail tipped her head. “But it’s been several years since…I had hoped you’d come before.”
“I thought about it a thousand times, but I guess…” She looked around. The room had been redecorated since then, but it really did feel the same. “I dealt with the worst of my rape in this room. I guess I thought if I came back here, I’d…remember that. And I really…I think things are better if I don’t think about that.”
“Why is that?”
“Oh…” Elizabeth sighed and picked at the chip in her red nail polish. “I don’t know. I just don’t like to. It’s easier to pick one of the awful things that have happened since as a reason why I feel like crap. I can pick last month. Last summer. The Christmas before that. The spring before that. The summer before that—” She bit her lip. “And I feel like I’m whining.”
“You can sound like however you wish.” Gail leaned forward. “This is your time.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. If this was going to work, she needed to do the thing. She needed to be honest. “I don’t like to think about my rape because I also remember what came next. My life fell apart. I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t function. I stopped being me. I didn’t take shit from anyone. I was selfish, and I was…” A tear slid down her cheek. “Fearless, too. I wasn’t a good person, but I was young. I think with my grandmother’s support…I was already changing. Being less self-centered, you know?”
“You were sixteen. It’s not uncommon to be someone different at twenty-two—”
“I’m not who I would have been if not for the rape. And that’s okay. Because…” Elizabeth hesitated. “Because, yeah, my life fell apart. And I lost myself. But I also put myself back together. And I was strong again. I faced my rapist. I looked him in the eye and I survived. I was able to trust again. To let someone touch me, love me. I don’t like to think about the rape because I came back from it. And…”
Gail reminded silent when Elizabeth trailed off, merely tilted her head again, so she forced the words out. “And when I think about how I came back from it, it’s harder to understand these last few years. I was strong, Gail. And then I stopped. I stopped being me. After the fire, when I thought Lucky was dead, I was devastated, and I lost myself. I got myself back again after a bit. After I found someone I could talk to. And then Lucky came back.”
“Lucky came back,” Gail repeated. “Did you hear the way you said that?”
“Yeah….the same way I said I was raped. Or Lucky died. Because Lucky came back, and I had a miracle. And I lost myself trying to deserve that miracle.” Elizabeth wiped a tear away with a knuckle. “And in a lot ways…I never came back from that. I feel like I’m still locked in that moment. Trying to be what Lucky needed me to be so we could get it all back. I never stopped to think…it shouldn’t be this hard. I shouldn’t have to spend my entire life doing what he wanted…and when someone pointed that out…” She closed her eyes—she could still bring that moment she had thrown Jason away. The only chance she had really had with him. “I threw him away. Because if I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t with Lucky. He loved me. That…it had to be enough.”
“You lost yourself,” Gail repeated. “What does that mean?”
“What?” Elizabeth blinked. “It means…it means exactly what I said. I stopped…doing what made me happy. I didn’t finish my art history degree because I was going to be a model. And then I was going to marry Lucky. And then I married Ric because I was going to be a mother—” Her voice broke. “I kept…planning the next step without really…I don’t know. I just…kept putting one foot in front of another to get through the day and I stopped caring about what that day looked like. I looked up in July…and I looked back at the last two or three years and I just…I didn’t understand them. I couldn’t…I could understand why I was…how I could have let it get this bad?”
Gail made a few notes. “You didn’t like your choices. Your marriage? Your career?”
“Career.” Elizabeth snorted. “I don’t have one. I live in a condo that Nikolas bought for me. I pay my bills with my grandmother’s life insurance money and the trust fund my grandfather left me when I turned twenty-one. I don’t have a career. I don’t even have a job. I’m…I’m a parasite, and I let that happen because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I was afraid…” She looked down, picked at the stitching holding the sofa cushions together.
“What were you afraid of?”
“If I had no where to go, no one to turn to…Ric came to see me when he got out on bail. I hadn’t…there wasn’t a restraining order. Bobbie and Nikolas had gotten emergency power of attorney while Ric was in jail. But he’d allowed it—because he couldn’t be there.” She bit her lip. “He came to see me, and I was…I was tired, and I was sick inside, you know? And he apologized. He cried. About the baby. About how he just wanted to give me another baby, and how looking at Carly made him so angry. He thought Sonny had pushed me. That Sonny had killed our baby, and he said he just…something snapped, and then once he’d done it…he’d had to go through with it.”
“Did…did that make sense to you?”
“Yeah.” Elizabeth looked at her then, tears streaming, her chest so tight she could scarcely breathe. “And he asked me to forgive him. And I didn’t—because—in my head I said no. I know I said no. But nothing came out. I only asked him to leave. And I started to cry when he left. Because I had almost…”
“Jason came in while I was crying, and Nikolas, too. They both—they both thought I was upset about…the situation. And I said something about not having anyone to talk to, to go after I left the hospital. And I was feeling…God, I was feeling so alone. Nikolas said they’d fix it. He’d find something and he promised to come by every day. And Jason just…he looked at me…and I never…I always thought…”
“What?” Gail pressed when Elizabeth pressed her lips together.
“I think he saw Ric leave the room. Because he came in so fast. I think he knew…he knew how close I’d come to going back. And I’m so ashamed. So ashamed that I was that weak. That I am that weak.”
“Because I believed him. I still believe him now. I believe that he’s sorry. Sorry he got caught, but sorry all the same. And I believe he…that if we hadn’t lost the baby, it wouldn’t have happened. I believe the baby broke him. And I know he blamed Sonny. That seeing Carly’s baby made him angry. I believe him.”
“It broke me. Losing that child before I could even…” She took the tissue Gail offered and blew her nose. “I couldn’t see straight, and it was just…easier to close my eyes to everything else. Buy a house I’d never seen. Move in. Start a new life. Sure, why not? But yeah, I believe losing that baby broke him. And it made him kidnap Carly.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that, Elizabeth,” Gail said softly. “And for what it’s worth, I believe that, too.”
“But if he hadn’t left…if he’d stood his ground that day and Jason hadn’t come—if Nikolas hadn’t—”
“If you’d really been alone in that moment?” Gail cut in. “You would have let him back in? And gone home with him?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“But you didn’t, Elizabeth. You allowed him to say his piece, you accepted his truth, and you asked him to leave. You should remember that part of it. You asked him to leave. And then you learned you weren’t alone. And you accepted the help. And you’ve continued to accept the help.”
Elizabeth’s breath was shaky as she let it out. “Okay. Okay. Yeah…I can…I can hold on to that. I asked him to leave, and I let Nikolas buy the condo. I let Jason drive me there. I know he set up security that goes beyond what existed in the building. And I…I let him pay a retainer for a divorce lawyer. I asked for the restraining order. I did it because I was scared if he came back, I would…I would let him back in. But I asked for it.”
“Yes. You did all of that.”
“So I need…I need to remember that.”
“More than that, my dear.” Gail smiled, but her eyes were sad. “You need to be kinder to yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard from others that you need to forgive yourself, and the sentiment is well-placed. But you only need forgiveness if you’ve done something wrong. You did the best you could with what you had in front of you. You don’t need to forgive yourself, Elizabeth. You need to be generous. Kinder. More understanding. You lost a child, Elizabeth. So what if that child had not yet been born? You believe Ric did this horrendous thing because losing that child, that dream, broke him. Why are you kinder to him than you are to yourself?”
“Oh, God…” Elizabeth couldn’t stop the tears. “I…can’t…”
Gail joined her on the sofa and took one of Elizabeth’s hands, holding it with both of hers. “I’m glad you came to see me.”
Elizabeth nodded through her tears. “I am, too. And I…I hear you. I don’t know…I know if I can do that. Be kind to myself. But, um, I want to try. I don’t want to feel like this anymore.”