No goddamn clue when this is set, other than some point in maybe in November 2002.
Courtney had been watching Michael make snowballs and stack them for twenty minutes before she heard footsteps crunching in the snow behind her. She turned and smiled. “Hey.”
Elizabeth smiled. “Hey, Courtney. I didn’t know you were off today.”
“I’m not,” Courtney replied. She stood up and put her hands in her pockets. “I was on my way home from Kelly’s when I ran into Michael and Carly.”
Elizabeth grimaced. “Tell me Carly’s not still here.”
Courtney laughed. “She doesn’t seem to fond of you either.”
Elizabeth shrugged. “I think we like to fight.” She turned to Michael. “Hey,” she greeted.
“Hey, Lizbeth,” Michael said, barely looking up at her.
“He knows your name?” Courtney asked, surprised.
“Well, yeah.” Elizabeth gave the little boy a bright smile. “We’re old friends. He’s been coming into Kelly’s his whole life.” She sat on the bench and Courtney followed suit. “God, he’s gotten so big. It feels like just yesterday he was in his stroller at the garage.”
“Garage?” Courtney echoed.
“Yeah,” Elizabeth replied her eyes on Michael as he continued with his snowballs. “Jason had this bike garage about four years ago and Lucky worked for him then. He lived in an apartment above the place.” She smiled fondly. “Michael was always there—like Jason couldn’t bear to be separated from him.”
“Jason loves him,” Courtney said.
“Yeah,” Elizabeth replied. “Jason’s going to be good father one day.” She chuckled. “If he ever lets himself.”
Courtney frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Jason seems be the anti-happy person,” Elizabeth said. She sighed a little. “He’d rather help everyone in sight before worrying about himself.”
“Well maybe helping people makes him happy,” Courtney said defensively.
Elizabeth frowned. “I’m sure he gets satisfaction from helping people, but what happens once everyone he’s helped is happy…what’s he supposed to do then?”
“He’ll find new people to help.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “That’s no way to live. He’s just going to end up miserable in the long run.”
“Well, he’s not with Brenda anymore, so maybe he’ll find someone who makes him happy,” Courtney said.
“He and Brenda separated?” Elizabeth asked, surprised. “Didn’t they just get married?”
“They thought she was sick,” Courtney explained, sounding a little smug. “Jason told me yesterday that she’d been misdiagnosed.”
“Well, that’s good,” Elizabeth said. “That marriage always seemed a little quick for me, y’know? Because I couldn’t understand how he’d managed to fall in love with Brenda two weeks after we broke up when it took him three years to admit he even wanted to be with me.”
“You two were together?” Courtney asked frowning.
“For like a week,” Elizabeth muttered. “He promised to respect me, listen and be honest with me. And like eight seconds later, he lied to me. Not exactly a solid foundation for a relationship.”
“But it was his job,” Courtney protested. “He couldn’t tell anyone—he couldn’t even tell me.”
Elizabeth frowned. She didn’t like the way that sounded—like Courtney had a right to be trusted with something she wasn’t even trusted with. Hadn’t Elizabeth proved herself far more times than Courtney?
“It wasn’t just his job,” Elizabeth argued. “It’s not like I haven’t kept secrets for him before. The first winter we were friends, he was shot and he recuperated in my studio. I lied to everyone I knew—told them we were sleeping together so they’d leave him alone. And then last year—”
“Were you?” Courtney asked, slightly stricken.
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. Did she have another Sarah on her hands here? “No. I was barely eighteen and he was shot. Of course not.”
“And then last year,” Elizabeth continued as if Courtney hadn’t spoken, “he came to town and no one could know he was here. He came to me because he knew he could trust me. I lied to everyone again—I lied to Lucky, to Jason’s sister, Emily—but apparently they forgot I could be trusted.”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to do that,” Courtney assured her.
“I’m sure he didn’t. He also let me worry myself sick when I was staying with him—he knew I was staying up, waiting for him to call or come home. But he never did.”
“That’s not his fault. You’re the one who stayed up,” Courtney told her.
Stung, Elizabeth recoiled a little. “Okay—maybe you’re right. But it doesn’t matter now. He’s obviously moved on.”
“Yeah,” Courtney agreed.
Elizabeth frowned. “Has he, really?” she asked quietly. She hadn’t actually meant it—hadn’t expected to have it confirmed.
“Well, sure,” Courtney said. “He’s not sitting around, waiting for you to grace him with your presence.”
Elizabeth bit her lip and looked away. “I didn’t expect him to sit around.”
“Well, what did you expect, after you walked out on him without giving him a chance to explain?” Courtney demanded.
“He told me it was about his job—that it wasn’t about me,” Elizabeth replied softly. “I think he was blocking out the reasons I was even staying with him. Alcazar came after me, too, you know? How could this not involve me?”
“You should have just accepted his apology,” Courtney said, shrugging.
“That’s just it—he never apologized,” Elizabeth replied. She looked at Courtney. “When you say he’s moved on…do you mean…he’s moved on with you?”
“I don’t really think that’s any of your business,” Courtney said. “Michael, come on. I’m going to take you home.”
Michael waved bye to Elizabeth. “Bye, bye, Lizbeth.”
“Bye,” Elizabeth murmured, without looking up.
Courtney and Michael left – leaving Elizabeth sitting alone on a bench as the snow fell around her.
“There’s nothing going on.”
The sound of his voice startled Elizabeth and she twisted around on the bench. “Jason.”
He was looking down at the ground, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his leather jacket, the snow making his spiky hair slightly damp. “I mean that—there’s nothing going on with Courtney.”
She frowned. “What…?” She looked down at her gloved hands. “How long have you been standing there?”
“I was watching Michael,” Jason admitted. “Before Carly even left.”
“Oh…” Elizabeth shifted. “So you heard the whole conversation.”
“Yeah.” He looked up then and met her eyes. “It wasn’t that I didn’t trust you and I’m sorry if it felt that way.” He rolled his shoulders a little. “I’ve always trusted you.”
“I thought after…everything with Zander…that you didn’t,” Elizabeth admitted. “I know I certainly didn’t deserve your trust at times.” She looked away. “I’m sorry for what I said just now…about you being anti-happy…”
He shrugged. “Don’t apologize if you meant it.”
“I just…” Elizabeth stood and faced him. “I just don’t understand you anymore. You run around making sure everyone else is happy—but I don’t see you doing the same thing for yourself.”
Jason looked away then. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Why not?” Elizabeth pressed. “Why doesn’t it matter?”
“Because you’re not there,” Jason stated matter of factly. Elizabeth had forgotten just how brutally honest Jason could be at times.
“Jason.” She folded her arms across her chest and looked away. “Don’t—don’t make me the reason you’re not happy.”
“I wanted to apologize,” he said, ignoring her comment. “I should have handled it differently.”
Elizabeth looked down at the ground. “I shouldn’t have left,” she said softly.
“I never think about what I should have done differently,” Jason said. “I don’t ask what if…I never saw the point.”
“I can’t help it sometimes,” she admitted. “I seem to make so many wrong decisions, all I’m constantly doing is thinking about what I should have done instead.” She looked up and caught his eye. “I don’t want to think about that anymore.”
“I don’t want to, either.” He took a few steps, his long legs rounding the bench so he was standing in front of her. He held out his hand. “Come with me.”
“Where?” she asked, a small smile on her face.
“Anywhere.” He shrugged. “Nowhere. Just as long we’re free.”
It wasn’t fixed yet and it wasn’t perfect. But maybe it wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe the best things in life were slightly flawed and rough at the edges.
She stared at his large hand for a few seconds before placing her small one in his. “I thought you’d never ask.”