July 14, 2015

This entry is part 1 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

Make sure you’ve checked out the story page with the timeline and setup information!


 

Juliet Morgan had made the same wish every birthday since she was six years old and had been old enough to know something wasn’t entirely right with her family. For eight years, she had closed her eyes and blew out her candles and whispered the same phrase silently in her head.

I wish I knew my mother.

Until she was six, Juliet hadn’t really known she was lacking a mother. Sure, her best friend Amalia Zacchara had one, but it didn’t occur to Juliet that hers had gone away. She just…wasn’t there but her dad was and so were her aunt and a few uncles. She had two older brothers, a bunch of cousins. She never thought about moms.

Then Amalia told her that she’d heard her parents discussing—more like arguing because Amalia’s parents had spent every day of their divorced lives arguing with one another and to be honest, a great deal of their marriage—Juliet’s mother and what had happened to her.

It would be the only version that Juliet would ever hear. Her brothers, Cameron and Jake, hadn’t been old enough to remember what had happened and Jason Morgan, her father, never spoke of it. Juliet personally thought he might have forbidden anyone to speak of it in his presence. And hers.

In the eight years since Juliet learned that she’d had a mother once, Amalia had bugged her parents for more details and they had a much clearer picture. When Juliet had been six months old, Elizabeth Morgan had left for work one morning and simply vanished. No trace of her, living or dead, had ever been found.

The general consensus, Amalia had reported when they were twelve, was that Elizabeth had become tired of the dangerous lifestyle and taken off. Amalia’s mom didn’t believe that. Elizabeth, according to Nadine Zacchara, had loved her kids more than life and her husband had been the center of everything to her.

Juliet had quizzed her oldest brother mercilessly as he had the only truly clear memories out of the three of them but Cameron had been only five, so she’d long ago sucked him dry of anything worthwhile.

Desperate though she was for information, Juliet was careful to keep her obsession from her father. Jason never spoke about his wife, but when they were thirteen, Amalia overheard Nadine talking about that awful year Jason had disappeared to search for Elizabeth, leaving his kids with best friend Carly Jacks.

He’d returned empty-handed, of course, but had never filed for divorce or tried to have his wife declared legally dead. Poor man just waited for her to come back, Nadine clucked sympathetically to a fellow nurse while Amalia had been pretending to do her homework a few feet away.

Amalia and Juliet had found the idea of Jason’s eternal devotion very romantic and Amalia secretly wished her own parents had the same sort of story. Unfortunately, the background behind the unlikely pairing of tortured bad boy Johnny Zacchara and pretty nurse Nadine Crowell was both well-known and the opposite of romantic.

Amalia’s wickedly fascinating aunt Claudia had clued the duo in when they were eleven and she’d felt they were old enough to know the reality of life. Johnny and Nadine were never actually together but after a few drinks too many one night, they’d slept together and Nadine turned up pregnant. Johnny did the right thing and married her. Of course, everyone knew that the marriage had cracked up four years later and Johnny had been through two other wives since then but Nadine had remained single.

Amalia was the only product of the marriage and from the time she was eleven, had known that she was a mistake. She was horribly jealous of her best friend for having parents that had loved each other but then she’d found out that Juliet’s mother had gotten knocked up by Jason Morgan while she was married to someone else and lied to him about Juliet’s brother Jake. It had helped take a little of the bitterness away.

Parents were very weird.

So now the girls were fourteen. Juliet had made her usual wish and wondered if this year would be the year she’d know what had happened to her mother.

And Amalia wondered if maybe this year she’d know why her parents hated each other so much that they couldn’t be in the same room together without bitterness and anger.

This entry is part 2 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

June 2024

No Name Restaurant: Dining Room

Amalia perused the menu and ignored her father’s somewhat impatient huff. Amalia alternated which parent she was going to piss off each week and it was Johnny Zacchara’s turn. She’d decided that if they couldn’t be civil to one another, then she wouldn’t bother being civil to them. In a world completely controlled by adults, it was her one rebellion. Sure, she spent most of her life grounded but since she could always wheedle calls and visits from her girl Jules, then it really wasn’t much of a problem. Nadine had a very maternal feeling towards Juliet and Johnny didn’t want to risk annoying Jason Morgan.

“This place closes eventually, Li,” Johnny said. “So you either choose or I will.”

“I’ll have the garden salad,” Amalia remarked. She closed her menu and handed it to the server, smiling brightly. “Thanks.”

“Ten minutes to choose lettuce,” Johnny muttered, reaching for a cigarette. “You must get that from your mother.”

“And I get my sparkling personality from you,” Amalia said shortly, “so I guess I have the best of both worlds.” She tapped her spoon restlessly against her plate. Her father did his best to ignore it but after a few minutes he grabbed the spoon from her.

“You just don’t feel right unless you’re locked in your room, do you?” he demanded.

“There isn’t anything remotely important happening this week,” she informed her father. “Jules and Jake both had their birthday bashes last month and Mal Drake’s party isn’t until September, so you can ground me for the rest of the summer if you want.”

“If your mother isn’t going to bother disciplining you, I might have to.”

She ignored the dig at her mother. She was very good at ignoring that since every other word out of Johnny Zacchara was disparaging to his first ex-wife. “So, what are your other plans for the summer?” she asked with a smirk. “Wife number four maybe?”

“I have about had it with your attitude,” Johnny said, slapping his hand down on the linen table cloth. “This is supposed to be a celebration of your graduation from middle school but if you’re going to insist on being a brat, we’ll just go home.”

“Oh, please,” Amalia rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s a threat. You’ll just send me back to Mom and punish me that way.”

“You know, all this tossing you back and forth between me and your mom hasn’t had any benefits for you,” Johnny said after a moment. “Maybe we need to revisit the situation.”

Amalia stared at him suspiciously. This was new. Her parents had shared joint custody since their divorce. One week with Nadine, the next with Johnny. She alternated major holidays. Was this Johnny’s way of saying she’d finally pissed him off enough and he was going to dump her full time with her mom? “Maybe we do,” she said cautiously.

“I’ll talk to my lawyer when we get back to the house,” Johnny said. “You can still see your mom when you want, but you should be in one house full time.”

“Wait, what?” Amalia pushed away from the table. “You want Mom to give up custody?”

“What did you think I was suggesting?” he demanded. “Obviously, your bad behavior has been egged on by your mother because I certainly don’t put up with it.”

“You have lost your mind!” Amalia shot to her feet. “You are not taking my mother away from me!”

“I’m not trying to take anything—” Johnny broke off and glanced around at the surrounding tables and the interested gazes at each one. “Amalia, sit the hell down!” he hissed.

“No, you’re being completely irrational and I’m not going to sit here and listen to it. For the record, I piss Mom off just as much and she grounds me too.” She grabbed her purse and stalked out of the restaurant. When she heard her father’s heavy footsteps, she broke into a run. She’d been the star of her school track team and found it ridiculously easy to shoot into an alley, duck into a doorway and down behind a dumpster to lose him.

Her father had lost his freaking mind!

She dug her cell phone out of her small clutch and dialed the number of the only person who could and would pick her up right now.

“Jake? Have I mentioned lately that I love you?”

Fifteen minutes later, her best friend’s older brother pulled up in the cherry red convertible he’d received as a present for getting his driver’s license. At seventeen, Jake Morgan was the starring attraction in the dreams of most of the girls Amalia knew and probably a lot that she didn’t. He’d inherited his father’s blond hair and piercing blue eyes, not to mention his spectacular build.

If Amalia was just a year older, she could probably give those other girls a run for their money, but alas, she had just turned fourteen and was clearly not in his league.

Yet.

“My favorite best friend’s brother,” Amalia said cheerfully, planting herself in the front seat. “You are such a lifesaver.”

“Uh huh,” Jake remarked. He slid his sunglasses down to peer at her. “What did you do to get dumped off here?”

“I wasn’t dumped.” She rolled her eyes and huffed. “My father started to go insane so I left.”

“And John Zacchara just let you walk out of the No Name?” Jake said. He pushed his shades back up and put the car into gear. “Be real, Li.”

“Fine.” She folded her arms underneath her chest. “I ran and hid. But seriously, can you blame me? He was talking about suing my mom for full residential custody. He’s gone loco.”

“Way I hear it, he was never completely sane anyway.” Jake maneuvered a corner. “I suppose I’m taking you to see Jules.”

“Please. We need to discuss what I’m supposed to do and plus, my father is never going to burst into your place looking for me. He wouldn’t want to insult your dad.” Amalia shook her head. “Can you imagine? After ten years of tossing me back and forth, he thinks now is a good time for me to live with him! I think he’s just tired of sharing his house with random wives.” She pursed her lips. “You are so lucky your father isn’t nuts.” She slid a glance at him. “But I guess you’d rather have my problem, huh?”

“You mean having my parents fight over me like a bone?” Jake crossed over the border that separated downtown Port Charles from the elegant residential district that he and his family resided in.  “I guess. But I doubt I’ll know what that’s like unless Dad remarries.”

“Never going to happen,” Amalia shook her head. “He’d have to, you know, decide what happened to your mom.”

“Yeah, and he’d rather pretend she never existed,” he muttered. He pulled into the two car driveway and switched off the engine. “I can’t decide what’s healthier—pretending she never existed or just waiting around for her to come back. I guess he’d rather not deal with the obvious.”

“That she’s dead,” Amalia murmured. An option she had tried to suggest to Juliet but her best friend never wanted to consider that. As far as Jules was concerned, her mother was out there somewhere and had an excellent reason for abandoning her family.

And that it’s his fault.”

Amalia digested that and tapped her fingernails against her denim clad thigh. “Well, yeah, I guess that would be an excellent reason for him to prefer the other options.” She frowned. “Jake, you’re like older than me.”

“Um, yeah,” Jake said slowly as if she were the loco one now.

“No, I mean, you’re older than me so people tend to tell you stuff they would never tell me and Jules. Except my aunt Claudia,” Amalia frowned. “She doesn’t really pay attention to my age.” She grabbed his arm. “Have you ever heard any gossip about my parents?”

“Um.” He stared at her hand and then at her. “Well, yeah, sometimes. Nothing that you’d want to hear—”

“I want to hear plenty,” she assured him. “No one knows or would tell me anyway why they broke up or what they were like while they were married and all I’ve ever seen them do is fight, so I’m just kind of curious if you or even Cam might know anything.”

“Cam would know more, you know.  Your mom came over a lot, I think, after my mom…” Jake hesitated. “Wasn’t here anymore,” he finally settled for. “He would have some first hand stuff.”

“But you’ve got gossip,” Amalia narrowed her eyes. “You do, don’t you?”

“Only that people thought for a while that they were happy,” Jake shrugged. “At least for the first few years after you were born. Aunt Carly said that the most well-balanced she’d ever seen Johnny Zacchara was after he’d become a dad so knocking up your mom had been the best thing that had ever happened to him.”

“Seriously?” Her mouth dropped open. “My parents were happy together? I didn’t think they knew what that word meant.”

“Aunt Carly said that they were happy one second and then like someone flipped a switch, they were at each other throats and your mom moved out when you were like three. Bitter divorce, I think. Put Aunt Carly and Sonny Corinthos to shame, actually, the way I hear it. They fought over everything. The money, the house, you. But this is all second hand stuff, Li; I don’t know what might be true.”

“It never occurred to me to ask you or Cam.” Amalia digested what Jake had told her. “Okay, well my parents liking each other is definitely an interesting theory. I’ll have to consider it. Is Cam coming home from school this summer? Jules said he might stick around Boston.”

“Nah, he called last night. He’ll be home next week.” Jake opened his car door and stepped out.

Amalia sighed and stepped out into the driveway. “It sucks the way your dad keeps Jules from knowing anything about your mom. She was so little when it happened. You and Cam at least have something.”

“Cam has more,” Jake admitted as they walked up the front path. “Me, it’s more like I have a vague idea but he actually has tangible memories. Drove Jules crazy when she realized that.”

“Lots of things drive Jules crazy,” Amalia remarked. They entered the house and she looked towards the stairs. “Well, I guess I better go fill in Jules and get her advice on what to do now. Thanks for the ride home.”

Jake watched his little sister’s best friend dash up the staircase and exhaled slowly. Amalia Zacchara was three years younger than him (very nearly to the day) but she sure was growing up fast. In a couple of years, the age difference between them wouldn’t mean amount to much. After all, his father had been seven years older than his mom and everyone knew Jason Morgan had had an eye on Elizabeth Webber since she was eighteen.

Upstairs, Amalia burst into her friend’s room. “Jules, you won’t believe what happened—” she stopped when she saw Juliet sitting on her bed, her knees drawn up under her chin. “What’s wrong?” she asked immediately.

Juliet sniffled. “I was cleaning my room.”

Amalia lowered herself onto the bed. “Always a reason for sulking,” she said.

“No, I mean I was cleaning out under my bed and my dad came in. We were talking about the party Aunt Carly’s throwing at the hotel and I wasn’t paying attention.” Juliet sniffled again. “I knocked over The Box.”

Amalia’s mouth formed an ‘O’ as she realized exactly why Juliet was upset. The Box contained all the pictures and clippings of Elizabeth Webber Morgan that the teen had hoarded over the years, not something that Jason Morgan would have been happy to see, especially after all the trouble he’d gone through to keep Juliet from asking questions about her mother.

“And what did your dad say?”

“Nothing,” Juliet said. “Which was the worst part, you know. This picture of my mom that Robin gave me fell out first, it was from the wedding. He just stared at it and then picked it up, put it back in and took the whole box with him. He never said a word.” Juliet wiped her hand over her eyes. “But he just looked…” she hesitated.  “He looked destroyed.”

Jacks Home: Living Room

“If you think for one second that I don’t know what you’re up to tonight, then you apparently don’t give me enough credit,” Carly Jacks told her daughter with a smirk. Fifteen-year-old Cecily Jane Jacks arched an eyebrow.

“And what exactly do you think I’m up to?”

“Well, I think that you’re not going to be anywhere near Pauline’s room and that it’s more likely that you think you’re going down to the quarry with Mal.”

Cecily huffed. “You’re insane.”

“I’m also right.” Carly tapped her foot. “And don’t think for one second that your father and I won’t take you to Pauline’s and sit outside all night to make sure you’re there.”

Cecily’s cheeks flushed with anger and she stomped her foot. “You guys are so mean! None of the other kids have to go through this!”

“None of the other kids were caught with their boyfriend in the music room at school,” Carly retorted. “So what’s it gonna be? Am I gonna have to call Pauline every hour on the hour and are you really going to make me have to call Mal’s mother to make sure he’s home?”

“That’s so embarrassing, Mom!” Cecily shrieked. “You don’t even like Mal’s mother, why would you do that?”

“Because as much as Robin Drake and I dislike each other, we want our kids to be safe. So make your choice. You and Pauline can stay here tonight or I can just stay up all night outside her house. It’s up to you.”

Cecily glared at her mother but Carly was the original stubborn mule and the teenager finally gave in. “I’ll call Pauline and tell her she has to come here. You’re such a nerd.” She stomped up the stairs.

“Why do girls have to be so much worse than boys?” Carly muttered, collapsing on the couch in exhaustion. Morgan hadn’t been nearly this difficult at her age and…she sighed, rubbing her temple. She wondered if Michael would have been as easy going as his brother or as temperamental as his sister? But he’d never passed the age of twelve—had died on the floor of Corinthos & Morgan warehouse, the victim of a bullet meant for Sonny Corinthos.

Sonny had been killed mere weeks later. He’d lost it after Michael’s death and no matter how Jason had tried to hold him back, he’d gone after Johnny Zacchara in retaliation. Carly had never blamed the younger man for killing Sonny. He’d been protecting himself and Sonny hadn’t had any real evidence of the Zacchara’s involvement. There’d been a trial but Johnny had been acquitted.

In the sixteen years since her son’s death, the pain had faded. Carly had conceived their daughter only months later, and it had essentially saved her sanity. She’d been drifting into a depression that would have caused her marriage to crumble eventually but she and Jax had focused their love on Morgan and their daughter and had somehow rebuilt their lives.

But Carly thought about Michael all the time. He’d be twenty-six, his own man. Maybe married. Maybe Carly would have been a grandmother by now.

Carly shook her head to clear herself of the somber thoughts. It was never best to dwell on those sorts of things for too long.

There was a light knock on her front door and then Jason pushed it open. She started to smile and greet him, but something about the look on her best friend’s face had the greeting dying on her lips. “Jase, what’s wrong?” She got to her feet. “Is it one of the kids?”

“Ah, no.” Jason Morgan closed the door behind himself and stepped down into her living room. He held a dusty shoe box in his hands. “I found this in Juliet’s room today.”

Carly frowned and took the box from him, setting it on her coffee table. She took her seat and carefully opened it. Her eyes softened as she removed the photo of Jason’s wife on her wedding day. And then the clipping of their wedding announcement. A long forgotten photo of Elizabeth, huge with pregnancy. Another of Elizabeth and the boys. Another newspaper clipping when Elizabeth’s grandmother had died.

A photo of Elizabeth with infant Juliet, mere weeks before her vanishing.

“Oh, Jase…” She tugged her friend down next to her. “Are you all right?”

“I—” He cleared his throat. “I haven’t looked at a photo of her in nearly thirteen years,” he admitted. “I packed them away with her things when I came home and I put them in your basement.  I didn’t even want them in the house.”

“I know, Jase. It’s all still downstairs,” Carly assured him. “I always saved them for Jules. Or if, you know…” she trailed off. If Elizabeth came home, which had seemed like a remote possibility thirteen years ago when she’d vanished. Now of course, Carly knew the boxes in the basement would be for Juliet and her brothers. “What did Juliet say?”

“Nothing,” Jason shook his head. “She was upset that I found them, I guess, but I just took the box and left.”

“Well…” she hesitated.  “You knew Jules would have questions about her. It’s hard for a girl without her mom and it’s only natural she’s curious.”

“I know,” he said.

“We all agreed that we shouldn’t talk about her around the kids so that they would be able to move on and have normal lives but they’re going to be curious. I’m sure Jules has pumped her brother for information. It’s her mother, Jase. You weren’t going to be able to hide her forever.”

“I know,” Jason repeated, “but I guess…I thought Juliet would come to me with her questions.” He looked at his oldest friend with grief. “Have I made it so difficult for my kids to talk about their mother with me?”

“No,” Carly said slowly, “but I think the boys—especially Cameron—knew that you had taken it badly and it’s possible he also cautioned Jake and Jules to keep the talk to a minimum around you. They love you so much, Jase, they were just trying to protect you.”

“She shouldn’t be in a box under Juliet’s bed,” Jason said quietly. He reached for the last photograph—of Elizabeth and Jason, with all three kids, in the living room. It was only portrait of the five of them that existed and he knew where his daughter had found it. “You gave her some of these.”

“Ah…” Carly smiled weakly. “Yeah. Well, Jules had her questions and I answered what I thought I could. She was only about ten then and not old enough for some of it. She started to cry because she didn’t know what her mother looked like. I couldn’t let her leave like that, Jase, so I picked out some of the best ones I had in an album. I’m sorry, I should have told you she came to me, but no one wanted to discuss it with you. We were worried…”  Carly shrugged. “We were worried that you might finally realize…”

“That she’s never coming back,” Jason said roughly, putting the picture back in the box. “You all think she’s dead.”

“I don’t want to think that,” Carly assured him. “No one wants to think that. But as much as Elizabeth and I didn’t really get along, even if she had left unwillingly, in all this time—she would have found a way to get word to her kids at the very least and I don’t believe she would have left willingly. Not her kids. Even if she didn’t love you anymore, she would never have left her kids.”

“So of course she has to be dead.” He pushed himself to his feet and crossed the mantel. “It’s crossed my mind, you know.  I thought that she must be dead because Elizabeth wouldn’t have left—not that way. She had too much backbone to abandon her kids and her marriage. If we had problems, she would have been upfront about it but you know, we weren’t having problems.” He stopped, his voice at the breaking point. “We were happier in the months since Juliet was born than either of us had been in years.”

“And that’s why the people who know you and love you—and Elizabeth…” Carly stood, “that’s why we think she’s dead.” It was a relief to be speaking these words finally. Maybe Jason could grieve and find a way to put his wife in his past.

“I know and I don’t blame you for thinking that but I would feel it.” He placed a hand over his heart. “I just…I would know if something had happened to her. I always could. When Diego Alcazar kidnapped her, when she was in that hotel, having those cramps with Jake, I could feel that something was wrong. I would know if she was dead, Carly. She’s not dead.”

“It’s been thirteen years, Jase,” Carly murmured. “Your little girl needs more than a feeling. She needs to know about her mother and the only person who can truly give Elizabeth to her is the person who loved her most in the world and that’s you.”

“I need to have Elizabeth’s things brought back to the house,” Jason said after a long silence. “I want to go through them with the kids. When Cam comes home next week, we need to talk about her.” He hesitated. “I’d like for you, Jax and the kids to be there. If you can.”

“Of course,” Carly murmured. She crossed the room and wrapped her arms tightly around her oldest and dearest friend. “Whatever you and the kids need, you know that Jax and I will always be there for you.”

This entry is part 3 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

November 2010

 Morgan Home: Living Room

 Jason wasn’t entirely sure how his wife handled all three children every morning without help. It was the first time since Juliet had been born that he’d been alone with the trio, Elizabeth having left nearly three hours ago for her first shift back at General Hospital. She’d been reluctant to leave her daughter but excited to return to work. Usually, Elizabeth was home with the tribe while he was at the warehouse, dealing with the day to day business of running a coffee business. Today, they had switched places.

Jason was trying to juggle changing Juliet’s wet diaper and keeping an eye on six-year-old Cameron and three-year-old Jake who were playing with dump trucks a few feet away. They were relatively safe but Jake had recently developed a tendency to jump off furniture and try to fly. He’d already had three stitches over his eyebrow after a flight attempt from the coffee table had failed to launch as planned.

“Jake,” he warned, as the toddler started to climb the sofa. “Stay on the floor.”

Juliet giggled and kicked her legs, ruining his attempt to pull her pants back on. The bright red pants slipped back over her chubby legs and she kicked her feet free, elated to be rid of the thick material. She giggled again and waved her arms at her father.

“Yes,” Jason remarked his tone sober but his face amused, “you’re a very talented kid. But you can’t go around without your pants on. It’s not a habit I’d enjoy later in life and your mother would have my head, in any case.”

He ignored the ringing telephone, assuming that it wasn’t anything important. After all, most people called his cell phone if they needed him. It was usually telemarketers that bothered with the land line.

He finally had Juliet dressed and hoisted in his arms. “Hey, Cam, do you think you can keep your brother on solid ground so I can put Juliet down for her nap?”

“I can try,” the child said, heaving a very put-on sigh, “but I make no promises.”

“I’ll be down in just a minute,” Jason replied.

The phone was ringing when he returned downstairs a few minutes later. He knew Juliet was still fussing her crib—she never liked to be away from the action but she’d eventually fall asleep. Concerned that someone might actually be trying to reach a live body, Jason reached over and grabbed the phone. “Yeah?”

“Hey, it’s Robin at the hospital,” Robin Drake greeted him. “Listen, I guess Liz forgot she was supposed to come back today and Epiphany is having a cow here. Can you tell Liz she’d better get here fast before Epiphany fetches her?”

Jason frowned and glanced at the clock. It was almost noon. “Robin…Elizabeth left for work at eight-thirty. Her shift started at nine, right?”

“Yeah…” There was a long silence. “You’re sure she was on her way to the hospital?”

“Yeah. Did you call her cell?” Jason asked. He patted his back pocket for his own phone. It wasn’t there and he remembered that he’d left it in his bedroom when he’d heard Juliet fussing in her crib earlier that morning.

“A few times, but I figured she’d given it to Jules again.” Robin paused again. “She really left?” Her voice was worried now and Jason was sliding into panic himself.

“The house is less than ten minutes from the hospital,” he said. He dragged his hands through his short hair. “If she’d broken down, she could have either come back home or gone to the hospital anyway.”

“Yeah…Jason, do you want me to call my uncle? I can call him and he’ll put an APB out. Maybe Liz broke down and is staying with the car for some reason.”

“No, no don’t call Mac.” Calling the police meant Elizabeth might be in trouble and he just wasn’t prepared for that. There was a simple and logical reason why his reliable wife had never made it to work. “I’ll get someone here to watch the kids and I’ll ride along her usual route. I’m sure she’s just broke down and maybe she’s too tired to walk.”

“I’m sure it’s something like that,” Robin said, but he could tell she didn’t buy it and neither did he. “Keep me posted, okay? And seriously, if you don’t find her, I’ll call my uncle.”

“Okay.” Jason set the phone down and forced himself to breathe calmly. Life was not without its dangers. They had never found the assassin responsible for Michael’s death but the last year or so had been tranquil thanks to the truce between the Morgan and Zacchara factions. Even Johnny’s killing of Sonny hadn’t broken the truce.

No one would have snatched his wife out of thin air, he assured himself. Everyone knew and loved Elizabeth. She was fine, wherever she was, and he was sure there would be a simple explanation for it all.

June 2024

Morgan Home: Front Walk

Nadine Zacchara considered it a day well spent when she didn’t have to converse with her ex-husband. She worked very hard to keep their interactions at a minimum and confined to one word answers—two if it were absolutely necessary.

Today, however, that was not the case. Johnny had called to tell her that her rebellious and out of control daughter had run out on him at dinner and had then hid from him. By the time he’d called people out to look for her, Amalia was long gone and he was sure she’d called someone to pick her up.

Like she usually did, Nadine sighed, remembering that interesting portion of the conversation. Apparently, this was not the first time her daughter had run out and disappeared but it was the first time she was hearing about it. Johnny never did like to admit defeat and admitting that he couldn’t control a mere fourteen year old girl probably drove him crazy.

Nadine knew that if she wanted to find Amalia, she’d need to look no further than the Morgan place. Jake Morgan was a newly licensed driver that her daughter had always managed to wheedle favors out of and there was no where else her daughter would have made a beeline for than her best friend Juliet.

She rang the front bell and arched an eyebrow when Jake pulled the door open. “I think you picked something of mine up off the road today.”

“Uh, yeah,” he admitted sheepishly. He rubbed a hand through his thick blond hair. “She’s upstairs with Jules. I just couldn’t let her wander around by herself.”

“She upstairs with Jules then?” Nadine asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jake stepped aside to let her in. “You know where it is.”

Amalia and Juliet were sitting on the bed, scribbling away in notebooks. Pieces of crumpled up paper were strewn around on the cotton candy pick carpet. Amalia looked up at her mother’s entrance and jumped up guiltily. “Mom, how did you know I was here?”

“I had a phone call from your father,” Nadine said. She folded her arms under her chest. “So you can imagine what mood I’m in right now.”

“I can explain,” Amalia began.

“Save it. We’re going home and you’re not going to spend the week with your father. He’s fed up and tired of you running out on him every other day.” Nadine raised her eyebrows. “Which is something else we’re going to discuss when we get home.”

“Mom…” Amalia started towards her and dropped her voice to a hush. “Jules is having a really tough day. Her dad found all her clippings about her mom and is really upset with her. I don’t think she should be alone right now.”

Nadine hesitated, as she always did and for the first time, noticed the little gleam of triumph in her daughter’s dark eyes. Amalia had always resembled her father more than Nadine, but for the first time, Nadine realized that her daughter was a dead ringer for Johnny’s older sister, Claudia. Her blood chilled. “Amalia, I’m going to tell you one more time and then we’re going to seriously talk about that boarding school.”

Amalia huffed. “Come on, Mom, you know Jules needs me more.”

“What Juliet needs has nothing to do with you,” Nadine said. “Get in the car now and maybe you’ll see your cell phone and the light day in a week rather than a month.”

Amalia recognized she could only push her mother so far and rolled her eyes. “Jules, I’ll call you later,” she muttered, scooping up her purse and exiting the room.

Nadine approached the other girl and sat on the edge of the bed. “Li’s not going to be calling you tonight, Jules.”

“I kind of figured,” Juliet replied. She bit her lip. “She’s really upset, Mrs. Zacchara. I think she’s kind of tired of being pulled between you and her dad. It’s why she acts out the way she does. She doesn’t mean to be a pain—” she stopped. “Well, okay, yeah, she does. But she doesn’t feel like she has any other choice.”

“I know,” Nadine admitted. “And I’m working on changing that, but it’s not going to happen this week. I wish I could let her stay here and keep you company, but it’s not an option, okay? If you really need to talk to someone, you can give me a call. You have my cell.” She reached for and embraced the girl that had always felt just a little bit like her own.

“Thanks,” Juliet said with a shy smile. “But I’ll be okay. Lia already cheered me up mostly. Tell her I said bye, would you?”

“Sure thing,” Nadine agreed. She patted Juliet one more time on the shoulder and left.

Drake Home: Mal’s Bedroom

“Man, that sucks large.”

Malcolm Anthony Drake, more affectionately known as Mal, reclined in his computer chair, his cell phone surgically attached to his ear. “Your mom has really flipped out over that music room thing.”

“I know,” Cecily said. “You’d think she never did anything like that when she was my age. Total repression going on there. So I’m not going to be able to sneak out tonight after all. Can we hook up tomorrow maybe? I can get permission to go to the movies and Pauline will invite her boyfriend without my mom knowing. We can split after the movie starts and do whatever we want.”

Mal opened his mouth to agree but found his father standing in the doorway. Patrick Drake did not look happy and his son had a pretty good idea why. “Ah, listen, I’ll call you back about that, okay?”

He flipped his phone shut and tried for a charming smile. He should have known better – Patrick had invented that combination smile and dimple routine before Mal had been a thought in the wind.

“So your final report card showed up,” Patrick said, holding it up in his hand. “Funny how your mom found it in Jeff’s toy box.”

“Hmm,” Mal murmured. “I don’t know how it ended up in there.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been nominated to read you the riot act because your mom is tired of doing it.” Patrick glanced at the paper again. “So you’re going to be spending some time in summer school.”

The front of Mal’s chair came smashing down. “What?” he demanded. “No I’m not!”

“Well, your mom and I don’t see any other way to get these grades up. You’ve got a lot of C’s, and I can see in English you barely scraped by with a D. You’re never going to get into college with grades like these.”

“College,” Mal rolled his eyes. “That’s forever away.”

“It’s really not.” Patrick set the report card on Mal’s desk. “So, here’s the way it’s going to work. You’re going to take three of these classes again this summer. Your mom already signed you up. She is going to drive you to school, I will pick you up and she’s already asked your teachers to call if you aren’t present for the entire class.”

“Are you kidding me?” Mal whined. “That’s insane. You and Mom are totally paranoid!”

“It’s not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you,” his father said dryly. “Do you want to go away to military school?”

“You’re joking,” Mal narrowed his eyes. “This is just a way to keep me from CeCe, isn’t it? Mom is totally insane with hatred about CeCe’s mom and doesn’t want me anywhere near her—”

“Chill out, Romeo. Forgive your mother and me if we’d rather see you in college than making minimum wage at a gas station. You’d never move out and I would never get my peaceful life back.”

“Your peaceful life,” Mal sneered. “You think that I don’t know what that’s code for? Your life before you knocked Mom up, right? When you were single and didn’t want kids?”

“What are you talking about?” Patrick demanded.

“You think people in this town don’t talk?” Mal shot to his feet. “You think I don’t know that you never wanted kids and you and Mom only slept together because her cousin died? You think I don’t know I was a total accident?”

“Mal—”

“You’re not going to run my life,” his son snarled. “You’re just pissed off because you ended up with three kids and a mortgage when you wanted to be single and you think I’m stupid enough to repeat your mistakes?” He shoved his bewildered father out of his way and charged down the hallway.

Eleven-year-old Anna stuck her head out her bedroom door as Patrick passed by to chase after Mal. “Dad!”

Patrick stopped short. “Not now, Anna,” he started to tell her.

“Dad, I have ballet in twenty minutes,” she said. He stared at her for a moment.

“Okay,” he said slowly. “That’s good.”

Anna sighed. “It’s your turn to drive me. Mom said you would.” She held out her duffle bag. “You can carry my bag to the car. Last time I tried, I tripped down the stairs.”

Patrick took the duffle bag. “Listen, you go wait in the car, I’m going to try to—” He heard the screech of brakes in the driveway. He pushed past his daughter and peered out the window to see his son jumping into a car. Of course, his usual partner in crime—Molly Lansing—was sitting in the driver’s seat. The car peeled down the street and Mal was gone.

He pulled his head back in the window and leaned against the wall for just a minute to regain his balance. There was a sliver of truth in Mal’s words. This had never been the plan for his life. Even after Mal was born and he had married Robin, Patrick had somehow thought she’d be happy with one kid living in an apartment downtown.

But Robin wanted a better school district, so they’d moved near Jason and Elizabeth. And then Robin thought Mal would be lonely as an only child and he had mostly agreed that it was a lonely existence so they’d planned Anna.

Jeff had been every bit the surprise his older brother was and now Patrick was a soccer dad, living in the suburbs with a wife, three kids, a mortgage and two dogs. He liked his life most of the time and he loved his kids more than he’d thought possible, but there were times he missed that peace and quiet a single life could have offered.

“Dad!” Anna stomped her foot. “Ballet!”

“I’m coming,” he said. Maybe he was heading for a mid-life crisis.

Nadine Zacchara’s Home: Driveway

Nadine frowned as she pulled into her driveway. Parked in front of the house was her ex’s convertible. She could count on one hand and skip five fingers how many times Johnny had been in this house since the divorce had been finalized.

“What’s Dad doing here?” Amalia asked suspiciously.

“I don’t know,” Nadine said. She turned off the engine. “Listen, you know your father and I love you.”

“Right,” Amalia scoffed.

“But,” Nadine said, annoyed, “we don’t get along well together in the same room so if you would rather be spared that, I’d appreciate it if you would just go straight to your room. We’ll discuss your punishment later.”

“Fun,” Amalia sighed. She followed her mother into the house where Johnny was standing in the living room, pacing restlessly.

“It took you long enough to find her,” Johnny snarled. “Amalia, go get in the car. I’ll take you back to my house.”

Nadine folded her arms. “I thought we agreed I’d ground her at my house. Especially since you can’t manage to keep her from pulling these disappearing acts in the first place.”

“Don’t start,” Johnny told Nadine. “I’m not in the mood. Amalia, do as you’re told.”

“Um…” Amalia eyed her mother warily. “I’ll just be in my room. Let me know when you decide what I’m going to be doing.” She disappeared up the stairs and Nadine waited until she heard the door shut.

“You’re losing it, you know?” Nadine said. “She’s not going anywhere and I have half a mind to call Alexis and sue for residential custody. At least she’s not running away from me every five seconds!”

“Oh, yeah, like you haven’t told her that’s okay to make my life miserable every single time she’s there,” Johnny shot back. “This is all your fault and I’m going to ask Diane to sue for residential custody. We’ll see how she acts when she’s away from your influence!”

“You are not going to take my daughter away!” Nadine surprised him by planting her hands on his chest and shoving him a full step. “None of this is my fault! Do you think I wanted to raise her in a broken home with parents w ho despise each other? This is all your fault!”

I’m not the one who walked out,” Johnny said scathingly. “You walked out on our marriage and now you’re going to blame me for what’s happened because of it? That’s real mature, Nadine. Way to be an adult.”

“I just left a house, you’d walked out months ago,” she accused. “And now you use our daughter like a weapon to punish me with. You can’t stand that I left you, can you? No, it’s got to be Johnny doing the leaving, Johnny making all the decisions!”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. We wouldn’t be in this situation if I had been in control of anything! Who’s the one who swore she was on birth control, huh?”

“Oh, that’s rich,” Nadine laughed harshly. “Blame me for getting pregnant. No one forced you to marry me, you ass. I told you I didn’t need anything from you but you wanted to be a father, you wanted to take responsibility!”

“What choice did I have?” he tossed back. “Damn it, Nadine, you’re not going to put me through this anymore. That kid is more and more of a brat every time I see her!”

“Maybe because every time you see her, you’re pushing her to be someone she’s not! Maybe because you keep bringing home random stepmoms and expecting her to like them for the five seconds they’re around.”

“I’m not doing this with you anymore,” Johnny said. “I am tired of arguing with you because it gets us nowhere. You drew the line ten years ago and I am done trying to cross it.”

“Please!” Nadine threw up her hands. “You never made any effort in our marriage and you blame me because I was tired of being second best? Why don’t you go find another blonde bimbo to make you feel better? Or better yet, I hear Lulu Spencer is back in town. Why don’t you go sleep with her?” Her eyes narrowed. “Or do you only do that when you’re married?”

July 28, 2015

This entry is part 4 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

September 2009

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

The strains of the piano died away as Johnny heard footsteps in the hallway outside the room. A moment later, the heavy door opened and he was surprised by the hesitant blonde woman who entered. “Nadine.” He stood.

“Um, hi.” She wiped her hands nervously on her khaki slacks. “Your, ah, butler just told me to come back. I guess I don’t look very threatening.”

“No, I guess you don’t.” He crossed the room to her. “What brings you to Crimson Pointe? Not exactly in the neighborhood, is it?”

“Um, no.” She smiled weakly. “Look, I’m only here to…what I mean to say is that I’m only here because it’s the right thing, not because I expect anything, okay?”

Johnny narrowed his eyes. “Nadine, it almost sounds like…”

“Yeah, it’s like a speech from all those bad movies. But I really mean it; I don’t want anything from you that you don’t want to give, okay?”  Nadine told him. “I’m pregnant and I swear it’s yours.”

“I don’t…” Johnny paused and shook his head, a little out of himself. “I have to say, I don’t really doubt that. I can’t think of any woman who would pass off a kid as mine unless there wasn’t any choice.”

“Johnny…” Nadine chewed her bottom lip. “I’m okay if you want to get a paternity test. We don’t know anything about each other—” At his disbelieving look, she clarified, “anything other than what people gossip about—”

“It’s a bit more than gossip.” Johnny moved away, restlessly running his fingers along his piano. “I was on trial for murder last year; I don’t think you missed those headlines.”

“No, but I also didn’t miss the acquittal notice,” Nadine said. “C’mon, Sonny Corinthos went after you with a gun. It was you or him. There’s a reason we have a self-defense law on the books, you know.”

“Regardless, I’d understand if you didn’t want me to have anything to do with…” he gestured towards her absently.  “The baby.”

“I don’t care what anyone else thinks.” She tilted her head towards him. “Do you really think you’ve got the market cornered on family drama? My sister killed patients at General Hospital. She’s been in a coma for two years and she’s probably never going to wake up. You think people don’t look at me and think maybe I’m just as crazy as she was?”

“I guess you might understand a little,” he allowed. “But one sister is different than a legacy of blood and violence.”

“Does it have to be your legacy?” Nadine asked. “I mean, if you don’t want to be in this baby’s life, I’ll understand. But don’t say no because of what your name is.” When he said nothing, she closed the distance between them and took his hand in hers. “I know this isn’t exactly planned, but it could be a good thing, right? Maybe we’ve both been wrapped up in all the bad stuff in our past but this could be a chance to change that.”

“Do you really want me to be a father to this baby?” Johnny asked. “You’d be stuck with me for the rest of your life.”

Nadine smiled hesitantly. “I can think of worse people to be stuck with.”

He twisted his hand around until hers was engulfed in his much larger one. “Then I think we can make this work.”

June 2024

Morgan Home: Living Room

Cameron Morgan dropped his duffel bag by the front door and allowed his father to enfold him in a bear hug. “Hey, Dad.”

“Good to have you home,” Jason pulled back. “Was the drive okay? You and Morgan weren’t too tired?”

“Nope, we made really good time.” Cameron jerked a thumb towards the door. “I’ve got the rest of my stuff in the car. Do you think I can con Jake into getting it for me?”

“Always a possibility,” Jason replied. “Listen, Cam, I need you to stick close to home tonight. Carly and Jax are bringing Cecily and Morgan over and I want to sit down and talk to you guys about a few things.”

Cameron frowned. “Anything wrong?”

“No, no,” Jason shook his head.  “Not really. Just some things we should have discussed a long time ago.”

“Sure,” Cameron agreed. “I’m going to unload my car and meet Morgan at Kelly’s for lunch. He’s gonna catch up with CeCe, Kristina and Molly there so I said I’d stop by. Is that all right?”

“Sure.” Jason watched his oldest son go back out the front door and disappear into the garage. Cameron was not his biological son but when he and Elizabeth had married, he’d immediately suggested adopting the toddler and giving Cam his name. After Elizabeth had….vanished, there had been a scuffle as others thought Cameron should be with other people – someone who was a blood relative. Elizabeth’s grandmother had still been alive and Lucky Spencer and his sister Lulu had campaigned for Audrey to raise Cameron instead.

Jason hadn’t helped matters by disappearing for a year to search for his wife, but he’d left all three kids in Carly’s custody with paperwork drawn up by Diane. Carly had fought all the battles to keep the kids together and by the time Jason had returned from his travels empty-handed, custody of Cameron had been decided swiftly by Audrey’s death in early 2011. With no other blood relative stepping forward, Lucky had been forced to abandon his efforts.

“Was that Cam?” Juliet demanded, halfway down the steps. “Is he home?”

“He’s in the garage,” Jason hesitated. He and Juliet hadn’t exchanged many words since the scene in her bedroom the week before. “Juliet, I know we haven’t seen eye to eye these last few days, but—”

“No, it’s okay,” Juliet replied. She came down the rest of the stairs and stood in front of her father. “I know talking about…my mother…is painful for you,” she said. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

“It’s okay.” He put an arm around her shoulder and drew her in for a hug. “You have questions about your mom that are understandable and I should have answered them a long time ago.”

“Are you going to now?” Juliet asked hopefully.

“Tonight,” Jason said. “Aunt Carly and Uncle Jax are bringing over the things I had stored in their basement and we’re going to go through them.” He paused. “Your mom should never have been hidden away in boxes and in basements. It was just…” he shook his head. “It was the only way I could think to deal with everything.”

“It’s okay, Dad. I mean, in a way I’m glad you loved Mom so much that it hurt to look at her,” Juliet admitted. “I look at Amalia’s parents and they can’t stand each other.”

“There are reasons Amalia doesn’t understand for what happened between her parents,” Jason said.

Juliet narrowed her eyes. “Does that mean you know why they divorced?  Because you know, it would help if she knew—”

“That’s between Johnny and Nadine Zacchara and trust me, it has nothing to do with you or Amalia.”

“Adults always think that,” Juliet sighed, exasperated.

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Jake dropped into the seat across from the despondent Amalia, who had barely touched her soda or plate of fries. “You look like someone kicked your puppy.”

“The first time I’m allowed to see the light of day in a week and your sister tells me that she’s busy.” Amalia huffed. “It’s ridiculous. I need to branch out. I totally needed her academic skills today and she abandoned me.”

“The nerve of Jules having something to do that doesn’t revolve around you.”

She threw a fry at him. “Haha.” She dug something out of her purse and shoved it at him. “Look at what I managed to find all by myself.”

Jake glanced down at the photocopy of a newspaper clipping. “It’s a picture of your parents and their engagement announcement.”

“No, look at the picture.” She leaned over the table and pointed to it. “Do you see that? He’s got an arm around her. They’re smiling.”

“So?” Jake shrugged.

“They look happy.” Amalia sat back. “And it hit me that this is the first picture I’ve ever seen of my parents together. I don’t even have any of them where they’re mad or not smiling. It sucks. And it proves that my parents liked each other at some point, even after he found out she was knocked up so maybe he did want me a little.”

Jake frowned. “What makes you think he didn’t want you?”

“I overheard them yelling at each other last week, the night I ran out on him. My mom brought me home and Dad was waiting. He was freaking out on her and they really went at it. He blamed her for getting pregnant, because she was supposed to be on birth control. And then she accused him of sleeping with Lulu Spencer when they were married.”

“Look, people say things when they’re pissed off. They don’t always mean them,” Jake said.

“True,” Amalia allowed. “But you don’t just say crazy shit, you know? Whether you mean them or not, if you say them, it means the thought had to be in your head even if it didn’t hold a lot of truth. So maybe my dad does regret having me because I didn’t turn out the way he wanted me to. And maybe my dad did cheat on my mom. It would explain why they’re happy one second and at each other’s throats the next.” She shrugged.

“If your dad made a mistake, you don’t think your mom was capable of loving him enough to forgive him?”

“That’s the thing, I don’t know if they ever loved one another. Maybe they were only happy until I was born.” She sighed. “It’s just…you know how you have all these questions about your mom and what she was like and why she’s not around anymore?”

“Yeah,” Jake nodded. “So?”

“So…I have all those questions, too. I think we all deserve the answers.”

“Well, my dad’s going to have some huge family meeting tonight to talk about Mom so maybe you should start asking your mom. Show her the picture.”

“I guess it’s worth a try.” Amalia rested her chin on her hand. “Thanks. You’re getting pretty good at cheering me up. Trying to dethrone Jules from best friend status?”

“Li, I doubt we’d make very good best friends,” Jake said honestly. Best friends rarely wanted to do the things he thought he might want to do to Amalia. If only she were a little older. Another year, two at the max and he could seriously consider ignoring the three years between them. Sixteen and nineteen was much better than seventeen and fourteen.

Morgan Home: Back Porch

Jasper Jacks set the last suitcase by the sofa and wiped his hands together. “That’s the last of it.”

“Thanks,” Jason answered, doing his best to avoid looking at the boxes strewn across the coffee table that he knew held photographs and personal effects. “I thought Juliet might want to go through the clothes. I doubt the boys would be interested.”

“Boys today,” Jax sighed, thinking of the fraternity prank Morgan had been caught pulling in someone’s bra and skirt. “You just never know with them.” He hesitated and glanced back through the open door into the kitchen where his wife was arranging some small finger foods with Cecily and Juliet. “For the record, Jason, I think it’s good that you’re doing this tonight.”

“I shouldn’t have left it so long,” the other man admitted, “but I guess doing it this way meant to me that she was really…” Jason closed his eyes.

After nearly two decades of calling this man and his children family, Jax had gone from a grudging respect to a reluctant affection. Jason Morgan had become a closer brother than his own and he was glad that he’d been able to reach that point because his life with Carly became much easier once Jax openly accepted her best friend. “We all want to believe that she could come home tomorrow,” Jax said quietly. “And with the way things happen sometimes in this town, no one blames you for holding out hope. But there comes a time when maybe doing so hurts more than accepting what’s real.”

There was some rustling outside and the door from the garage to the backyard opened. Cameron emerged, followed by his best friend and college roommate, Morgan Corinthos. Jake was behind them.

“We’re here,” Jake said, shoving his hands into his khaki shorts. “Let’s get this over with.”

Jason bristled but before he could say anything, Cameron socked his little brother in the shoulder. “Show a little respect, asshole,” he said. “You and Dad can have this little war all you want but this is about Mom and Jules doesn’t need this.”

“It’s always about what Jules needs,” Jake muttered, climbing the back stairs and flopping down on one of the chairs. “Whatever.”

“Hey, you guys,” Carly said, emerging from the kitchen, a tray of drinks in her hands. The girls followed each with a bowl of either chips or pretzels. “It’s so nice to have you and Morgan home, Cam. The houses always seem so empty without you.”

“I’m supremely happy to have you home,” Cecily remarked. She sat primly on the edge of the second sofa and took one of the iced teas her mother had. “Maybe now Mom and Dad can freak out on someone else for a change.”

“I doubt that, CeCe,” Morgan smirked. “I never gave them an ounce of the trouble you have.”

“And I thank you for it every day,” Jax said dryly, sitting next to his daughter. “We’ll let up, Cecily, when you prove we can trust you.”

“Then I guess you’re going to be a prison warden for a few more years.”

Jason saw his daughter eyeing the things on the table and decided that she’d waited long enough. He gestured for everyone else to sit down and then sat between Juliet and Cam on the first sofa. “Um, I guess you guys figured out why we’re here.”

“Because someone’s finally living in reality?” Jake muttered.

“Jake,” Juliet hissed. “Stop it.”

“We never really talked about what happened back then,” Jason continued, “but I know you all have a pretty good idea from asking around town. Your mom left for work one morning and no one…” he stopped and had to take a deep breath. “No one saw her again. We never found her car, there was never any activity on her credit cards or her bank accounts.”

“She just vanished,” Carly said, taking up part of the story to spare Jason some of the brunt. “Your mom had a lot of friends in this town and even those who weren’t that fond of her joined in on the search. We had search parties in the woods and we didn’t give that up until almost a year later.”

“No one even thought they saw her?” Juliet asked quietly.

“No, no, not even a pretend sighting,” Jason answered. “I thought, we all thought, that it was an aftereffect of Michael and Sonny, or…” he stopped because the kids deserved to know what might have happened to their mother but he didn’t want to expose them to his business. “Or maybe they thought I was weak because Johnny Zacchara was still alive.”

“After Michael died,” Carly said, “Sonny lost it. He went insane with grief, he stopped taking the medication that had balanced him. No one could talk him out of going after Johnny. Not his girlfriend, not me and not Jason. He went to Johnny’s house, pulled a gun. Johnny pulled his own. Sonny shot him and Johnny shot back.”

“So it really was self-defense,” Cecily said. She shrugged when her mom looked at her. “People always wondered if maybe he’d just gotten off because of his money.”

“No, it was self-defense,” Carly confirmed. She looked at Morgan who was silent. “Your dad was a good man who just lived life the wrong way.”

“Dad still lives his life that way,” Jake said bitterly. “He lived his life that way after Sonny died and that’s why Mom’s gone.”

“Jake,” Cam started to stand but Jason pulled him down.

“He’s got the right to say it. She was his mother and he thinks she’s dead,” Jason said. “I don’t know if she is—”

“For God’s sake, she has to be dead!” Jake shot to his feet. “She’s either dead or a bitch for walking out and not looking back—”

Even Jason couldn’t hold Cameron back. The lanky young man shot to his feet and hurled himself at his brother. The two grappled and fell back, tipping over Jake’s chair. Jax and Jason both lunged towards the two boys and Morgan yanked at the back of Cam’s shirt.

“Stop it, stop it!” Juliet shrieked. Carly hovered just behind the brawl, wringing her hands.

Cecily sipped her drink, chewed on a pretzel and sent Mal a text message saying she didn’t know what time she’d be out of here.

Finally, Jax held Jake by the shoulders and Jason had Cameron. “You’re such a little bastard!” Cameron shouted. “You don’t know a damn thing about Mom and you’re just pissed off at Dad. It doesn’t give you a reason to say shit like that! She was the best!”

“Well, how the hell would I know?” Jake retorted, wiping at his bloody nose. “I was three years old! I barely even know what she looks like because he wouldn’t tell us!”

“Just stop it!” Juliet said, shoving her way between her brothers. “If you two just stop trying to kill each other, maybe Dad will tell us what we want to know!”

“I’m okay,” Cameron told his father. “I won’t beat the shit out of him. Not yet, anyway.”

Jax and Jason released the boys and Jax reached over to tip the chair back into its correct position.

“I don’t think for one minute your mother walked out of this house that morning intending to leave you three. Even if she hated me, she would have been here for you kids,” Jason bit out. “You have no idea what your mother would put herself through to keep you all safe. This life, the way it was back then…your mother lied to me about who your father was,” he told Jake.

“I know that,” Jake said, irritated. “She was married to Lucky Spencer and told him he was the father. She should have stuck with him, she’d probably be alive right now.”

“She saw what this life was doing to Michael,” Jason retorted. “She saw that he was angry all the time, and she knew what had happened to other women in my life. The way we were doing business made everyone a target and after she told me the truth, I told her we were going to keep it a secret because I didn’t want anything to happen to you, or to Cam.” He glanced at Cameron. “Because your mother loved you. She’d had a miscarriage before you and one before you,” he told Jake. “Nothing was ever more important than her kids, so you can take that with you, Jake. She would never have left you without a damn good reason.”

“You can’t seriously think Mom is still alive,” Jake said flatly. “If she was as wonderful and loving as you say, she would have found a way to tell us she was all right. She’s dead and she’s been dead since the morning she disappeared. One your enemies killed her.”

“I don’t know that,” Jason answered roughly. “It didn’t seem likely at the time. After Sonny died, we made a lot of changes. I didn’t retaliate against Johnny Zacchara, he took that as a sign of good faith and the truce that had already been in place was continued. We became partners after he married Nadine and when his daughter was born, we swore that we would never let the blood and the violence touch our families again.”

“Life was different,” Carly told Jake. “The need for constant guards was gone. Cam and Morgan were in regular schools. Those first two years after Sonny died were peaceful. There’s no reason to believe that an enemy of Jason’s would kill his wife and then disappear. The point of hurting family members is to get a point across but no one made a play for the business, no one ever hinted.”

“So maybe it was revenge, plain and simple,” Jake countered. “Someone who just wanted to make you bleed inside for the rest of your life and what’s the best way to do it? To kill your wife and leave you wondering if she left you.”

“Jake—”

“No, I want him to answer it,” Jake snarled. “He’s got a damn answer for everything else, I want to hear an answer for this.”

“I don’t have one,” Jason admitted. “I searched for a year, hoping to find someone anywhere that would know what had happened. I never found anything and in all these years I have never found anything. I hold out hope that Elizabeth is still alive because I don’t know that I can wake up tomorrow and face the fact that she might not be. I’m just not strong enough.”

He drew away from his sons then and took his daughter’s hand to lead her back to the sofa. “There are photo albums here that your mother worked on while she was pregnant with you. They’re filled with pictures of her, growing up, raising Cam and Jake, being pregnant with you, and there are a few of you and your mom.” He gestured towards another box. “And these are a few of the sketchbooks and smaller paintings she had.” He pointed to the back of the porch where several canvases were stacked. “And there are the larger ones.”

Juliet stared at the canvases. “Mom painted?”

“All the time,” Jason said. “The room next to yours—the one that’s empty? It used to be her studio at the house.”

“But she was a nurse,” Juliet said slowly. “Right?”

“She became a nurse after she had Cameron. Until then, she was a waitress at Kelly’s to support her art. But she said she needed something stable for him, medical insurance. It started out as just a job, but she grew to love it.”

Jason exhaled slowly and looked back at his sons. “I hate that I hid her from you. I should have raised you knowing about her, being able to look at her, and maybe you would be able to trust me when I say that she loved you three with every breath inside her. She ran into a burning house and slashed an artery in her leg to get you out of the house, Jake.”

Jake shifted, uncomfortable.

“She loved you enough to put her dream aside so she could build a better life for you,” he told Cameron. “And she stayed married to a man she didn’t love to keep you both safe and happy with two parents.”

He looked to Juliet. “She painted your nursery herself before she even knew she was pregnant. We wanted to have a baby and she knew, even before you were a reality, that you’d be a little girl and she had the painting done before she found out she was pregnant. She loved you, Juliet, before you were even real. She named you for her best friend, my sister, who died a long time ago.”

“Your mother loved me enough to marry me, to let me raise her oldest son as my own, to have children with me. And to put up with Aunt Carly,” he said with a half-smile.  “She had enough love for all of us and she would never have left us without a fight.”

This entry is part 5 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

November 2009

Corinthos & Morgan Warehouse: Office

“Boss-” Max Giambetti pushed open the door. “Johnny Zacchara to see you.”

Jason glanced up from some paperwork and frowned. “What’s he want?”

Max scratched his ear. “He didn’t exactly say. Me and Milo can toss him if you want.”

“No, no…” Jason stood. “Show him in.”  He set his pen down and rounded the desk. “I want to see what could bring him all the way to Port Charles.”

The younger man strolled in and stopped in front of Jason. “I have a business proposition for you,” he said.

Jason eyed him suspiciously. Despite the relative peace since Michael and Sonny’s deaths, he still found it difficult to trust Johnny Zacchara all that much. “Beyond keeping the peace, I’m not interested in doing business with you.”

“I think you might change your mind after you hear me out.” Johnny slipped his thumbs into the belt loops of his jeans. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m about to become a father.”

Jason’s eyebrows shot up and he glanced at Max to gage his reaction. Apparently the guard hadn’t heard the news either. “I hadn’t heard that. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. I know all of the families have adopted a hard and fast rule that women and children are off limits but I think you can sympathize with me and agree that you don’t have a lot of faith in that.”

“There are always going to be risks,” Jason admitted. “But we’ve changed the way we do business and overall, it’s safer than it ever has been. I can understand that you might have reservations. When Jake was born, I denied paternity to keep him safe.”

“I won’t raise my child the way I was,” Johnny said resolutely. “I had been thinking about coming here since I found out but yesterday, Nadine agreed to marry me and now I know it’s more important than ever to have a safe place for my family.”

“Nadine?” Jason repeated. “The nurse from the hospital?”

Johnny nodded. “She mentioned that Elizabeth is also expecting. She was excited; their due dates are within weeks of each other and she’s glad to have someone who’s gone through this before.” He paused. “We’re going to be bringing children into this world that will grow up together. I think we owe it to them to give them a better life than my father gave me, and what Michael ended up with.”

He was young, Jason thought. A little younger and definitely less experienced than he’d like. But he was smart and he knew that Jason’s weak spot was his wife and boys—and the child on the way. It appeared that Johnny Zacchara might have the same vulnerabilities. “What did you have in mind?”

“More than a truce. We run territories that border each other and people will always think they can divide and conquer. I suggest we combine our efforts and become partners.”

“I don’t deal with drugs,” Jason said shortly. “That’s a large part of your business.”

“I would, of course, make some concessions to that effect,” Johnny said. “Drugs are a fact of life, Morgan. We can either ignore it or control it. The way I run the business, they’re not marketed to children or teenagers and anyone who breaks that rule forfeits his life. I’d rather be in control of it. I would continue to support the embargo on the trade here in Port Charles. Nothing ships in or out.”

“They’re too risky,” Jason shook his head. “I don’t think—”

“People are going to find ways to kill themselves,” Johnny interrupted. “If they want drugs, they’ll find a way to get them. Like said, this way I can control who gets access better than you can. You simply turn your back and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.”

Jason exhaled slowly. “I don’t like to admit it, but you have a point. All right. As long as you continue to enforce the embargo here, I can deal with that. I don’t want to have to provide protection for a shipment of them.”

“We can handle that on our end.” Johnny paused once more. “I can’t change the bad blood that’s in our past. I’d do anything to give Sonny back to his kids. But we can make sure that our families don’t have to pay for our choices.”

June 2024

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

Johnny had kept the house in Crimson Pointe and after his marriage had imploded, he’d moved back here, keeping a residence in Port Charles for the school year so that Amalia could spend every other week with him.

During the summer, he stayed in the house exclusively, traveling to Port Charles only when necessary. He hated the damn town and he’d be happy once Amalia was eighteen and he would be able to sell the condo and get the hell out. She was the only worthwhile part of his life there.

The strains of piano music drew him into the room that he used exclusively. He wasn’t sure that anyone else had ever played on the grand piano but he entered and saw his daughter playing.

And playing with such ability that it nearly took his breath away. He listened to her play Beethoven and wondered how she could have hid this from him all her life. There was so much about his daughter that he didn’t understand.

She hadn’t always been this uncontrollable and difficult to reach. Though he and Nadine had never been able to keep a civil tongue with one another, he’d had a good relationship with Amalia until she was about eleven years old and like someone had flipped a switch, his sweet little girl disappeared and this…angry young woman stood in her place.

After his terrible fight with Nadine a week ago, he’d stormed out of the house and hadn’t expected see to Amalia for a while. He did not call his lawyer to ask about custody and he knew that Nadine hadn’t either.

They’d been threatening each other with that for longer than either of them could remember. It never failed to incite the anger in either of them.

But his daughter had showed up the day before with a bag. She wanted to spend her scheduled week with him and he would never refuse her.

He ventured into the room, Amalia never looking up from the piano. Her eyes were closed but her notes were perfect. Another sign of her talent. She was as swept away by the music as he had been at her age. An escape from reality. A place in which he was in control and all was right and perfect.

The notes trailed off and she stopped. She opened her eyes and stared at him.

“I used to play that for your mother,” Johnny murmured. “When she was pregnant.” He trailed his fingers over the piano as he moved to join her on the bench. She shifted to the side just a bit. He picked up the piece where she left off. “She used to complain that I spent too much time alone in here so she had a sofa moved in so she could read while I played.”

Amalia joined him after another moment, playing the left hand portion of the music. He let his hand fall away and they played the piece together. “She wasn’t really into classical music,” he continued, “but she liked this one. She said it sounded sad and hopeful at the same time. I tried to teach her but she never really caught on. She told me to save it for our daughter.” He smiled to himself. “We knew  by then…that you were a girl. I was terrified because I didn’t know anything about raising a girl. I could have fumbled my way through with a boy, but girls were a whole other thing. Your mom…never had any doubts though. She knew from the second she was pregnant that you were something she’d waited her whole life for.”

“Do you realize,” his daughter said softly, never missing a note, “that what you just told me is the nicest thing you’ve ever had to say about Mom? Or that it’s the first story I’ve ever heard about you two? About how you were before?”

The piece drew to a close and Johnny let his hands fall from the keys. “Your mom and I have our issues,” he said after a long moment. “I won’t pretend to understand them or expect you to. But we love you. Every single inch of you. Even when you mouth off. Even when you run out of restaurants. Even when I want to throttle you, Li, I love you. And I know your mom does.” He took her chin in his. “Our marriage may have ended up being a mistake, but you never were.”

She bit her lip and cast her eyes to the side. “But I was an accident.”

“No,” Johnny shook his head. “An accident is something you’d change, that you would take back.”

“You didn’t plan to have a kid with Mom,” Amalia continued, sliding back on the bench. “I know all about it, Aunt Claudia told me when I was eleven.”

“I’ll bet she did,” Johnny muttered. “No, you weren’t planned but please don’t mistake planning with wanting.  It’s not the same.”

“But you ended up marrying Mom because of me,” she said stubbornly. “And you guys make each other miserable. How can you not hate me for it?”

“The things that happened between your mom and me are because of who we are,” Johnny answered slowly. “We were happy for a while. I don’t want you to think that we always…that we were always like this.”

“Then what happened?” Amalia pressed. “Why don’t you guys tell me?”

He shook his head. “I didn’t know you could play,” Johnny changed the subject. “You’ve never used this piano before.”

“Mom has an upright one at the house.” Amalia sighed, knowing that subject was closed. “I’ve been taking lessons since I was six.” She hesitated. “I knew you could play,” she admitted. “And I was stupid when I was little, I didn’t really know what being divorced or even being married meant. I just knew we weren’t a family so I thought if I could play and I was good at it, you might come home and love me again.” She drifted her fingers over the ivory keys. “It was stupid.”

“Li…”

“No, I mean, I know you love me. I guess. And I know you definitely did when I was six. But I practiced every day, all day. I thought Mom was going to kill me, but she just smiled and told me I was getting better.  I was going to show you how good I was but you came home with Candace before I could and I just…I was so mad at you because you’d ruined my plans,” she admitted. “You were supposed to see how good I was and marry Mom again but you couldn’t because you were married to someone else. So I decided I would never tell you.” She jerked a shoulder. “And even when I was old enough to know better, I decided I wouldn’t tell you because you might be proud of me and I didn’t want that anymore.”

Johnny exhaled slowly. “Well, I’m sorry, Li,” he said, “but I am proud of you. That’s a hard piece at any age, much less fourteen. And to be able to drop it and pick it up again so flawlessly, you’re further along than I was at your age.” He hesitated. “What made you decide tackle Moonlight Sonata so young?”

“It was something I used to hear Mom play on her stereo,” Amalia told him. “I was twelve and I figured if she liked it so much, I wanted to be able to play it, too. So I learned it for Mother’s Day. And when I played it…she smiled.” She paused. “So I guess it’s a good memory for you both.”

“I guess so,” Johnny murmured. He cleared his throat. “How are you with Mozart?”

Kelly’s: Courtyard

Cameron dropped into a seat across from Morgan and grinned at him. “It’s a crying shame that you suck so much at basketball.”

His cousin glared at him. “You play dirty,” he accused. “If we had a competent referee, you would’ve been thrown out!”

“Lucky for me Mal spends more time watching CeCe than he does on the game.” Cameron glanced up as Molly Lansing stepped outside the restaurant and went to check on a table across the courtyard. “Hm.”

“Oh, if that’s anything like the hmm you got with Sarah Elliot, I would like to ask you to just stop it now because I’m still getting yelled at by Mom and Jax about the tires on my car being slashed,” Morgan complained.

“Is it my fault Sarah turned out to be both a stalker and colorblind?” Cameron demanded.

“It’s your fault for not demanding a psych work up before you make these girls fall for those pretty eyes,” Morgan grumbled. “And don’t forget, Molly Lansing is my cousin.”

“Only technically,” Cameron shrugged. “Alexis never let those girls anywhere near you or your mom.”

“Exactly, so you can imagine how it’ll piss her off if Jason Morgan’s son goes after her precious dumpling,” Morgan countered. “And you do not want that woman on your butt. She still has friends at the DA’s office.. Do you know what she did to Kristina’s last boyfriend? Had him hauled in on a speeding ticket. A speeding ticket! She’s nuts.”

“Paranoid,” Cameron corrected. “Besides, I only gave her a hmm. I’m not an animal, you know. Yo, Molly, are you going to take our order or are we going to pass out here?”

Molly Lansing planted her hand on her hip and smirked. “Yeah, like you boys are going to suffer if I don’t feed you in the next ten minutes.” She sauntered over, her long brown pony tail swishing back and forth. “What do you want?”

“Hamburger, well done, with fries and a soda,” Morgan answered. “How is your mom handling your newfound career?”

“Still having a conniption.” Molly rolled her eyes. “Just because I’m not like my perfect sister and going to college to be a lawyer doesn’t mean my life isn’t worthwhile.” She flicked her caramel eyes at Cameron. “What do you want?”

“Chili and a soda,” Cameron said. “You know what you could tell your mom the next time she starts in on you? Elizabeth Webber started out as a waitress and ended up a surgical nurse. All she needed was time to figure it out.”

Molly studied him curiously, realizing it was the first time Cam had brought his mother up willingly. “That might work. Mom always had a soft spot for your mom. Or so I’m told.” She tapped her pencil against her order pad. “What are you doing tonight?”

Morgan groaned. “It never fails,” he muttered.

After making plans to take Molly to the movies, she went to put in their orders. Cameron sat back in his chair and cracked his knuckles. “It’s a gift, man. Plain and simple. The old Morgan charm.”

Morgan snorted. “Yeah, I somehow doubt that. No offense man, but the day they gave out charm, your dad was….somewhere else entirely.” He tilted his head to the side. “Maybe your biological dad had the charm.”

“Don’t know,” Cameron shrugged. “Died way before I was born and he’s another person no one ever talks about but with him, I think it’s more that there aren’t a lot of people around that remember him. It’s not a big deal to me. He was never a father to me.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, yeah, Sonny was my dad and I kind of remember him,” Morgan said, “but Jax has been there my entire life. Even before my dad died, I think he was around more.” He hesitated. “So how have things been at the house since all that stuff last week?”

“It’s been okay.” Cameron shrugged. “I mean, Jake’s still pissed off and Jules has gone off the deep end. She keeps hanging pictures of Mom everywhere and Dad’s just letting her go wild even though it’s got to hurt to see her face everywhere after so long. She keeps talking about her plans to find out what happened to Mom but I can’t see how that’s going to happen. If my father couldn’t find her, how the hell does Jules think she’s going to be able to?”

“You never know,” Morgan said. “It’s not like anyone’s actively looking, right? And dude, someone out there has to know the answer, Cam. She didn’t just fall down a hole in her car and disappear. Someone out there knows exactly what happened to her. Like someone knows exactly who killed my brother,” his face hardened. “Someone has the answers and things like that? They got a way of coming out.”

“I guess you’re right,” Cameron agreed. “If someone…hurt her,” he said, not able to admit his mother might have been murdered, “that person is out there. You hear about people going in and confessing all the time. Someone has to know what happened and it’s only a matter of time.”

Nadine Zacchara’s Home: Living Room

The house was always eerily quiet when Amalia was with her father and Nadine hated the summers more because it meant her daughter was not a few blocks away but an hour, in Crimson Pointe.

It was these weeks that made her regret staying in this house after the divorce. They’d bought it just before the wedding because Jason and Elizabeth Morgan lived a few streets away and Johnny knew how much her friendship with Elizabeth meant to Nadine, especially while they were both pregnant. This house was a constant reminder of what their lives had been and what they could have been if things hadn’t changed.

She had moved out of the house temporarily when Amalia was three, but once they were legally separated and dueling in court, Johnny had retreated to Crimson Pointe and she’d returned here. She’d stayed because she wanted to believe that maybe they could work out their problems, at least for Amalia’s sake and she’d never left because her daughter had enough turmoil in her life. She deserved this stability for as long as Nadine could provide it.

When she was alone in this house, she couldn’t stop herself from remembering what it had been like then. The piano on the sun porch that she’d scrimped and saved to buy for Johnny as a wedding present. It was nothing like the beautiful grand piano he used at the estate, but he’d been so pleased and she’d been so proud that she could find something worthwhile to give this man with all his money.

He’d sat with their daughter when Amalia was no more than six months and tapped out everything – from the simple scales to complex pieces Nadine almost couldn’t follow. Amalia had soaked it in and Nadine wasn’t sure if her daughter knew it, but Amalia was entirely capable of playing simple scales by the time she was three. It had been the first thing that had truly bonded father and daughter and now Nadine was sure Johnny didn’t even know how beautifully she could play.

Nadine moved restlessly from the living room to the sun porch and sat down on the piano bench. He’d tried to teach her while she was pregnant but she wasn’t able to catch on and now she couldn’t even remember those scales. When she sat here, she could remember how much she’d loved her ex-husband once. She hadn’t when they’d conceived their daughter, and not when she’d told him she was pregnant.

But two months later, when he’d asked her to marry him so sweetly, she’d loved him desperately and hoped one day he’d feel the same. He had always been kind to her, but it only took a few years and a few slaps in the face from his past to know that she was a consolation prize.

She rubbed her face tiredly. Maybe it was time for a change of scenery, she sighed. She was only making herself worse by dwelling on these things.  Johnny certainly didn’t. He’d married just over two years after the divorce. It hadn’t lasted more than six months, but before the ink had been dry on the second divorce papers, he’d married again. And had stayed with the second one for almost two years.

The doorbell broke into her musings and Nadine left the sun porch, grateful for the distraction. And even more thrilled when she pulled open the door and found one of her favorite people standing there.

“Nikolas!” she cried, embracing him tightly. She laughed and pulled away. “I didn’t know you were coming to Port Charles!”

Nikolas Cassadine smiled in return. “I decided to bring Spencer for the summer. He’ll be starting Oxford in the fall and I wanted him to have some time with Lucky.” He hesitated.

“And Lulu,” Nadine answered with a wry smile. “You don’t need to tiptoe around it, I know she’s popped back into town.”

“Yeah, well…” Nikolas shrugged and followed Nadine inside. “It’s been too long since I’ve spent any time here. Wyndemere looks more and more gothic every time I see it. It amazes me I spent more than fifteen years in that house.”

“London looks good on you,” she smiled. “It was good that you got away from here.” She sat on the sofa and he sat next to her. “So how is Spencer doing? Aside from going to college?”

“Well,” he nodded. “He has Courtney’s stubborn nature, of course. I had to practically wrestle him into registering at the university. He wanted to come back to the States but I’m not nearly ready for him to be so far away.”

“We never are,” Nadine sighed.

“Is Amalia with her father?” Nikolas said, keeping his tone light and even. He’d never disguised his dislike for Johnny Zacchara and had been one of the few people in her life that had whole-heartedly supported the divorce.

“Yes, this is his week. I didn’t think she was going to go, they had an awful fight the last time she was there and I don’t think he was going to push for it but she asked Jake Morgan to drive her there yesterday.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m going to do about them. She has a very large crush on him.”

“He’s three years older than her, nearly to the day,” Nikolas murmured. “Not a very big difference, but almost insurmountable at seventeen and fourteen.”

“I know that age is just a number,” Nadine sighed. “I remember all the people who are far apart in age and still happy, but she’s my little girl and I’m not ready for her to be dating and falling in love. She’s got Jake Morgan wrapped around her finger ,though, so I guess it’s about out of my hands. You can’t live their lives for them.”

“No, I don’t suppose you can, no matter how much you try,” Nikolas said with a grin. “How is Jake? And Cameron and Juliet? Are they doing well?”

“Better,” Nadine answered. “Jason found a box that Juliet had been hiding, with pictures and clippings of her mother and I guess he realized how much Jules needed to know, so last week he sat the kids down and told them anything they wanted to know. Amalia told me that Jules is hanging pictures everywhere so she can see Elizabeth in every room.”

“That’s good,” Nikolas said softly. “It’s good that Jason is finally ready to take that step. I didn’t handle Emily’s death any more easily so I can sympathize with him.” He started to say something else but then shook his head. “Never mind, it’s insane.”

“What?” Nadine asked with a smile. “What’s insane?”

“I was doing a tour of the estates last summer,” Nikolas said slowly, “and I went to the estate in Greece, outside of Athens. I saw a woman who looked so much like Elizabeth, it nearly took my breath away.”

Nadine frowned. “You don’t think…”

“No, no,” he shook his head. “No, I don’t think it’s her at all. I long ago accepted that she’s gone but I suppose my mind was playing tricks on me. I had been thinking about her, she and Emily and growing up together had been on my mind because Spencer was the age I was when I moved here. I had been thinking about how awful it was that no one knew where her body was, that she’d been unable to have a proper funeral and burial. It’s just amazing how much your mind can want something that you almost make it happen.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Nadine sighed.

This entry is part 6 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

July 2009

Morgan House: Guest Bedroom

Jason leaned against the doorjamb and watched his wife soak the paint roller in the light pink paint and begin to roll it over the white coat that currently adorned the walls. “What exactly are you doing?”

Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder and smiled. “I’m painting.”

“I can see,” he replied soberly. “What made you get up this morning and decide to paint?”

“Well…” Elizabeth soaked the roller again and continued plying the wall. “I won’t be able to paint it once I’m actually pregnant. Paint fumes and everything.” She wrinkled her nose and he grinned. She looked like a little kid, dressed in a pair of paint-stained overalls and a tight black tank top. Her dark hair was swept off her face in a messy bun and a bandana was wrapped around her head to keep the paint from dripping into her hair.

“I can hire someone to do it,” Jason said. “Or I can get Morgan over here. You know, Cam wouldn’t mind attempting to help. He’d probably get a kick out of it. They’re both old enough to help out.

“But I want to do it,” Elizabeth insisted. “I couldn’t do it for Cameron or Jake, I was too stressed and I wasn’t sure about my marriage with either of them. This baby will be conceived and nurtured until birth in the best environment possible.” She set the paint roller down and crossed to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. He was going to be covered in pink paint when she pulled away but he couldn’t care about that now. “I love you so much and I just know our next child is going to grow up so happy, from the very start. She’ll know who her mother is, she’ll know who her father is and there will never be a moment of doubt in her head.”

“I can’t argue with that.” He kissed the tip of her nose. “So why are you sure it will be a girl? You’re not even pregnant yet.”

“I know.” Elizabeth pulled away and resumed her efforts. “But I just know it’s going to be a girl. I can feel it. I love my boys and you know I’d love another boy with all of my heart, but I really want a girl.” She inched up on her tip toes to reach the top of the wall. “I’m going to name her Juliet and her middle name will be Emily. I think Emily would prefer that I didn’t give her first name to our child. It wouldn’t be fair to ask our baby to live up to that.”

“Sounds like you’ve got it all planned out.”

“So, I’m going to finish the base coat by the end of the week, I think,” Elizabeth rubbed her nose, smearing pink paint across her cheek. “And then I want to stencil some designs, as like a border, you know? I can’t decide if I want to do teddy bears, ballerinas or maybe some fairies.” She pursed her lips in thought. “What do you think?”

“I think the baby won’t know the difference,” Jason answered honestly. Elizabeth rolled her eyes.

“You are so literal,” she sighed with a smile. “And you’re right, of course. I think I’ll do ballerinas. I can always paint it again.” She finished the wall and moved to the next. “Maybe I can paint some trucks and cars in Cam’s room. And then some puppies and kittens in Jake’s. He loves puppies.”

“I think you’ve got a lot work cut out for you if you want to get that done before you get pregnant.”

Elizabeth laughed. “I have the rest of my life to paint my children’s rooms. Now, are you going to stand there or are you going to help me?”

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Cameron’s Car

Cameron pulled up to the Davis home and turned his engine off, intending to go up to the front door and knock politely. Alexis Davis was known for being protective of her daughters and boys who honked their horns from the street did not date Davis girls.

Before Cameron could push his door open, the passenger side door opened and Molly slid in. “Let’s go.”

“Ah…” He blinked. “Are you sure your mom—”

“My mother is in her office, she doesn’t even know I’m going.” Molly buckled her seat belt. “So if we want to make a clean getaway, you’d better split.”

This was their third date in the last week and Cameron had yet to make it to the front door. If he didn’t know how Molly and Alexis felt about each other, he might start taking it personally. He backed the car out of the parking spot and started down the street. “Another movie?”

“Nah,” Molly blew a bubble with her gum and then popped it. “Let’s go up to Vista Point.”

What had once been a family picnic spot, Vista Point had been adopted by his generation as the make out destination. There was a grassy area near the observation area that teenagers used for parking. Cam had spent a great deal of his high school years up there (he’d had a thing for older girls with driver’s licenses even as a freshman) but you usually didn’t hit the Point until you’d been seeing each other more than a week.

“All right,” Cameron shrugged. He wasn’t going to argue if she wanted to fool around a little. She was over the age of consent, nearly nineteen – and she knew why people went to the Point. “You argue with your mom again?”

“Please,” Molly rolled her eyes and leaned forward to adjust the radio. “She wanted to have a discussion about my future earlier. I’m so sick of hearing about my future. If she talks about Kristina starting law school in September one more time, I swear to God, I’m just going to scream.” She flicked her eyes at him. “Your dad force you into college or was it your choice?”

“I don’t know,” Cameron said, thinking about it for a minute. He pulled up to a red light. “No, not really, I guess. He didn’t remember going to college and my mom went haphazardly, I think, until she went back for the nursing program after I was born, so he knows you can do it without college. It was just something that was kind of understood, I guess. You got out of high school, you did your time in college and stuff. I think Morgan’s mom pushed him hard though. She wants him to be like his stepfather.”

“Well, he can’t be like his own father,” Molly replied. “I mean, I hear a lot about Carly Jacks’ ability as a mother, but I can totally get why she’d rather he take after Jax.” She tapped her fingers against the bare skin her short skirt revealed. “Our parents are so fucked up. I never see my dad, my mother is so damn uptight. Your dad is just…stuck in a time warp and…” she shrugged.

“My mom is missing in action,” Cameron finished. “Yeah, I get you. I do think my dad would rather wake up and do the whole thing over again. Maybe figure out what he did wrong that led to someone messing with her.”

Molly bit her lip and looked at him. “Do you think she’s still alive?” she asked quietly.

Cameron didn’t answer her at first but finally, he shook his head. “No,” he replied. “I want her to be, but I know better. Other people might think she got fed up with my dad and just took off but I remember her more than Jake or Jules does and I remember she loved us.” He saw the turn for the Point and flicked his turn signal on. “Even if she didn’t love my dad anymore, she would have taken us with her.”

“You’re lucky,” Molly said after thinking about that. “I mean, not lucky in the sense that she’s gone, but you know, that you can have that kind of definite feeling. You know your mom loved you. I wonder sometimes about my dad.” She shrugged. “I get the expensive gifts at the appropriate times. He calls once a week and I go down to New York to see him every couple of months but it’s like…I’m a reminder of a life he wishes he’d never led.”

“There’s a lot of that going around,” Cameron mentioned. He pulled onto the grass and switched off the ignition. “Jake said that Amalia Zacchara is driving herself nuts about her parents. She blames herself for their problems.”

“Of course she does,” Molly said. “She’s not an idiot. She knows that Johnny Zacchara would never have looked twice at Nadine Crowell if he hadn’t gotten drunk in a bar and knocked her up. She was too sweet, too nice for him. He was definitely more suited to that trashy Lu Spencer. Li knows that they got married because of her and that the only reason they weren’t able to get rid of each other after the divorce is because of her. At least I can say my parents are civil to one another. Hell, they’re friends. Johnny and Nadine? They go at each other like it’s some kind of sport.”

Molly shook her head. “Parents. They try to run your life when they were hardly stars at running their own. The hypocrisy is alive and well in Port Charles.” She took her gum out of her mouth and dropped it into the cigarette ashtray. “Just once I’d like to look my mother in the eye and tell her that she was such a star at her own life that she’s never had real relationship, never been any good at connecting with her daughters and that the only reason Diane Miller has stuck around so long is because they love to one up each other.”

“So why don’t you?”

Molly pursed her lips. “Because I know it’s not really true. That the reason she’s never lasted with anyone is because she has bad taste in men and after my father screwed his stepdaughter, she’s got humongous trust issues that are well deserved. And that the only reason we butt heads so much is because she would die for her kids and she wants a good life for them. And of course, Aunt Diane stays around because they’re like sisters.” She blew out a frustrated breath. “But she just makes me so angry that I forget all the things I love about my mother and concentrate on the stuff that drives me crazy.”

“Well, at least you know that,” Cameron said. “Jake just goes after my father all the time. Now that Dad’s brought Mom out into the open and Jake’s able to voice his opinion about Dad causing her death, it’s a constant battle between them. He’s so angry at Dad that he says these things that I hope he doesn’t mean but I don’t really believe it. I think he believes Mom is dead and it’s our father’s fault.”

“Your brother’s an idiot,” Molly said. “Maybe your dad went way too long without talking about your Mom, but Jason Morgan freaking loved Elizabeth Webber and you don’t just get over that. She vanished without a trace, without warning and he doesn’t know if she’s alive or dead.  And despite that, he still raised you guys pretty decent.” She hesitated. “When my mom is really ticking me off, I look at her sometimes and I think…Thank God, she’s here to piss me off. I’d rather be arguing with her for the rest of my life than to spend it not knowing where she is.”

She rested her hand on his denim-clad thigh. “I always felt so bad for you guys, Cam, because you didn’t have a mom to argue with. That Jules is going to go through life never knowing how completely freeing it can be to just have a screaming match one second and the next, paint each other’s toenails. I hope one day, you guys find out what happened to her and who did it to her.”

“I’d give anything to know,” Cameron answered honestly. He met her eyes. “But even if I don’t, it’s okay. I know my mother loved me and a lot of people can’t take that with them.”

“You’re so different than the guys I usually date,” Molly said, changing the subject. She flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Most of them would have tried to get under my shirt the second the ignition was off.”

Cameron grinned. “I like to distract them so they don’t know it’s coming.”

“Well, that can work,” Molly said. “But I like to be in charge.” With that, she rendered him speechless by climbing over the gear shift and straddling him, pressing her knees outside his thighs. “Does that bother you?”

“I am a free-thinking modern man,” Cameron managed. She grinned and leaned down to kiss him.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Morgan Home: Backyard

Juliet set the bowl of potato salad on the picnic table and climbed over the bench to take a seat. She loved their Fourth of July party – everyone who might even have a connection to their family gathered there. Carly and Jax were there, of course. Carly was currently keeping a very close eye on her daughter, Cecily, who was in the pool with Mal Drake. They were dunking each other, but every once in while, CeCe would wrap her legs around the boy and Juliet knew Carly was about five seconds from picking her daughter up by the hair and tossing her in a locked room.

Jax was trying to ignore the scene by talking with Morgan, Nikolas, Johnny, and Patrick Drake. One eye was always on his daughter, though, and Juliet could almost see the vein in his neck throbbing. Once a Daddy’s girl, always a Daddy’s girl.

It was the one event that Johnny and Nadine both attended, mostly because Nadine was always at the family functions and Johnny and Jason were still partners and it was just a matter of respect. They no longer argued in public but Juliet could remember a few occasions when she was a kid that they hadn’t been so civil. When Juliet was eight, Nadine had pushed Johnny into the pool.

Today, Nadine was sitting at the same table as Carly and Robin and attempting to keep the peace between the two. It was her yearly ritual but Juliet noticed a lot less drinks being thrown from there. Maybe Robin and Carly were finally growing up.

Amalia was in the pool, too, playing volleyball with Jake, Cameron, Molly, Spencer and Kristina. Juliet usually joined them but she’d volunteered to help her dad with the cooking this year. She loved to cook and earlier her father had said that he wasn’t sure where she had found this love—he cooked only when necessary and her mother could really only make brownies.

That was the best part about her life since the talk two weeks ago. Her dad was forever volunteering pieces of information about Juliet’s mother. It was like Jason Morgan had finally been able to open the door to his memories and now he didn’t bother closing it.

Amalia climbed out the pool, adjusted the bottom of her bathing suit and wandered over to the table where Juliet was arranging dishes. “So, Jules, can I borrow you later? After we eat? I want to run something by you.”

“Ditto,” Juliet agreed. She eyed the pool where Molly dunked Cameron and he shot back out of the water, grabbing her by the waist. He lifted her slightly and then dropped her with a loud splash. “I think they’re having sex.”

Amalia glanced back and nodded. “I think so, too. I don’t think Mal and Cece are. You can kind of tell because he keeps grabbing her in certain places and she’s laughing and pulling away. Good to know she’s not a complete idiot. You should never give it up before you’re at least sixteen. People tend to say things about girls like that.”

“You’re going to have a tough time waiting for my brother then,” Juliet said with a small smile. She tightened the plastic wrap overt the potato salad. “He’ll be nineteen by then.”

“Please…” Amalia tossed a wet lock over her shoulder. “Your brother is blind. He’s letting our stupid age difference get in the way. What an idiot.”

“You know very well if Jake were to ask you out now, your dad would have him fitted for cement shoes by the end of the night,” Juliet replied. “We’re only fourteen and just barely. Don’t you want to give it some time before you reel him in?”

“I give it much more time and one of those skanks at school will snap him up.” She shook her head. “No, I’ve just got to rethink the master plan. So, later, after dinner? Upstairs?”

“You got it,” Juliet promised.

After a boisterous dinner, during which Jax tried to dump the potato salad in Mal Drake’s lap no more than five times, Nadine accidentally spilled her water over Johnny’s head, and Alexis and Molly got into a heated argument about the merits of a career plan, Amalia convinced Juliet to leave the clean up to the boys and dragged her upstairs.

“This must be important if you’re passing up a chance to flirt with Jake some more,” Juliet laughed.

Once seated on their bed, Amalia dragged her wallet out of her purse and pulled out the clipping. “Check this out. I found it a couple of weeks ago but didn’t get a chance to show it to you before I went to my dad’s.”

Like Amalia, Juliet was a little surprised to find that such a picture existed. She wasn’t stupid, she knew where babies came from but living in this town, she also knew that you didn’t have to give a damn about each other to make a baby and for that reason, she’d always lumped Johnny and Nadine into that category. But this picture told a different story.

“I think your mom took it,” Amalia said. “Because it’s at the hospital waiting room, you know. And not many people were around my dad back then. Your mom was because of your dad, and Mom always said she and Elizabeth were close because of them both being pregnant at the same time.”

“They look happy,” Juliet said, “they even look like they like each other.” She frowned at Amalia. “Do you think this means Jake was right? About the gossip, I mean?”

“I definitely think so. I’ve been thinking about it and it doesn’t make sense that they just got married because she was pregnant. They got married in December 2009 and I was born in May 2010 and I was supposed to be due in April, so Mom was like five months along by the time they tied the knot.”

“You think maybe you were the reason they got closer?” Juliet pondered.

“Maybe. Maybe Mom told him she was pregnant and they fell in love.” Amalia took the photo back and carefully folded it to put it back in her wallet. “They were arguing and Mom said something about him sleeping with Lulu Spencer.”

Juliet gasped. “You mean he cheated on her? Well, then I can’t blame her for walking out and being so mad.”

“Me either.” Amalia paused. “When I was at my dad’s last week, I was playing the piano—which you know I never do there—and he heard me playing that piece I learned for Mom. The Beethoven. So he comes in, and we start playing it together. He tells me that he used to play it for my mom when she was pregnant with me.”

“Wow,” Juliet said. “That’s the one he wrote for the woman he fell in love with but couldn’t marry, right? Your dad played it for your mom? That’s so romantic!”

“I know!” Amalia nodded. “So then he tells me how he was scared to have a daughter but that my mom knew she was going to be really good at it. And when he was talking about her, it was like he was he was thinking about those days and he had this distant look in his eyes.”

“Like your mom when she hears that song?” Juliet prompted.  “That’s a good sign.”

“I think that they were in love then and they’re in love now,” Amalia declared. “That’s why Candy and Bambi—”

“Candace and Bailey.”

“Whatever. That’s why they didn’t last long and why my mother never dated seriously.” Amalia nodded. “So I’m going to find out why they got divorced and fix it so they can be together again.”

Juliet pursed her lips. “I’d say that’s impossible but since my own goal is just about as far-fetched as yours, I won’t disagree.”

“You want to find your mom, right?” Amalia said.  “You’ve always talked about it.”

“But now I don’t have to worry about my dad finding out I’m asking questions,” Juliet said. “I don’t really know where to start but I think maybe my dad thought it was connected to his job.”

“Well, yeah, duh. Can you blame him?”

“No, but I think he investigated that pretty thoroughly.” Juliet shoved off her bed and crossed to the wall near her window. “You remember last year when I wanted to paint my room and he kept putting me off?”

“Yeah.” Amalia glanced around at the cotton-candy pink room with the border of ballerinas dancing in a thick line about halfway between the ceiling and the floor. “You thought your room was too babyish.”

“My mom painted it,” Juliet said. “He told me how she was so sure her next child was going to be a girl that she painted this room the summer before she got pregnant and knew she was going to name me Juliet Emily, for my aunt.”

“I’m surprised painting over it wasn’t his first priority,” Amalia said thoughtfully. “He boxed everything else up.”

“Because he knew how much my mother loved me and how hard she worked to have this done before she got pregnant. He left this one little piece of her here even though he knew he was going to have to look at it every single day. I want to find my mother, yeah, but it’s not just because I need her or because Cam and Jake need her.” Juliet sank back on her bed. “But it’s because he needs her.”

“What if she’s dead?” Amalia asked gently. “Chickie, you have to know that a woman who clearly loved her family and friends so much…she doesn’t leave without a word for all these years.”

“I know that,” Juliet admitted. “And I think mostly I’m pretty sure that I’m just going to confirm that but we can’t keep living like this, Li. We all have to know. If she’s out there, if she had a good reason to go away or if she’s not still alive…then we need to have that closure. She deserves a service and to be buried with my aunt Emily.” She smiled weakly. “But for obvious reasons, I’m going to prefer for now, to believe she’s okay.”

“Me, too, Jules.” Amalia leaned forward and embraced her best friend. “Positive thinking is always good.” She drew back. “Where will you start?”

“I think I’m going to ask Lucky Spencer about her,” Juliet replied. “They used to be married and I heard somewhere that he was the first person that she met here, so they were friends the longest. If my mom knew anyone who wanted to hurt her before she met my dad, I bet Lucky Spencer would know.”

Amalia tapped her chin. “Research the subject. That’s an excellent idea. I shall also do a little digging. I’ll write my aunt Claudia to see what she knows and maybe I’ll ask your Lucky about his sister. Got to work up to the big guns. I don’t want to confront Lulu Spencer without some kind of plan.”

“My dad used to talk about Aunt Carly’s plans,” Juliet said thoughtfully, “and last year, when we were getting in trouble for sneaking to New York, he talked about your plan to sneak onto the train in the same way. He may have had a point.”

“Bite me.”

December 7, 2015

This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

There was something about this room that almost made Nadine feel at home. Perhaps it was because every time she was in Crimson Pointe, she and Johnny inevitably ended up in here. She would lounge on the sofa in front of the fireplace, reading medical journals or more recently, pregnancy books and listen to Johnny playing the piano.

In the last two months, she had somehow ended up at the Zacchara estate every Thursday night and stayed until Saturday morning. She’d make the drive back to Port Charles in time for her afternoon shift. The first few times, she’d slept in a guest bedroom but a month ago, after an evening of dinner and talking, Johnny had leaned forward and kissed her and since that night, they’d shared a room.

Of course, there were moments when Nadine wondered if the attraction between them was more in their imagination than in reality – if they were just making themselves end up together because neither of them were really interested in being alone and of course, there was the baby to consider. But those moments only intruded when she was feeling fat and unattractive. Most of the time, she knew that the baby had just been the reason for continued contact.

In fact, it would have been infinitely easier for both of them if he’d just agreed to financially support the baby and arrange for visitation rights once it was born. That hadn’t satisfied Johnny – he wanted to start parenthood right and had insisted on being fully involved, from doctor appointments to his own stack of pregnancy and childcare books she’d spied in his room.

“So, the baby is about five inches long,” Nadine said. She sat up and peered at him over the back of the sofa. “That seems so weird to me.” She propped the book on her chest and held up her hands to about what she thought five inches would be. “Man, that’s small.”

“Babies generally are somewhat tiny.” Johnny’s fingers paused on the keys and she didn’t have to look at him to know he was smirking. “Or at least that’s what I’ve been told.”

“Very funny,” Nadine returned easily. She picked the book back up. “The baby only weighs as much as a turnip. Five ounces. That’s barely half a pound.” She shook her head. “Wow.” She closed the book and went to join him on the piano bench. “So I was browsing the internet at work today and I found this list of things to remember each week you’re pregnant and this week it was funny because they listed both your sex drive going into overdrive and thinking you’re too unattractive so your significant other will stray. No wonder pregnant women go crazy.”

Johnny slid a curious glance at her from the corner of his eye. “I can’t decide if that was a hint, a question or just one of those trick questions you pregnant girls ask a guy to trip him up.”

“Could be all three,” Nadine grinned. “I think that’s the best thing about being pregnant—other than the obvious. Everyone is always so worried about upsetting you. Leyla and Regina are so mad at me and Elizabeth because Epiphany keeps giving them all the manual labor.”

“Elizabeth?” Johnny remarked curiously. “Jason Morgan’s wife?”

“Yep,” Nadine nodded. “She’s due in early June and I’m in late April so we’re going to hit all the major stages together. Plus, she’s been through this twice before so it’s nice to have an ally in all this.” Her eyes grew a little distant. “Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing if we both had little girls and they were, like, best friends?  She’s positive this one is going to be a girl and even though I won’t know until next week at the appointment, I think this is a girl too.”

“It’s an interesting idea, me and Jason’s kids growing up together,” Johnny mused. He glanced at her. “So that trick question slash hint earlier?”

“I was just kidding,” Nadine replied. “It was choice D. None of the above.”

“Right.” Johnny started another piece, the Beethoven he knew she loved. It was the only piece that she could tell from the others. “I was thinking about my answer to it anyway. I think it’s pretty obvious that we’ve got something here.”

“Yes, a baby,” Nadine said slowly with a grin. “Gee, you’re slow.”

“Nadine.” Johnny looked at her, slightly exasperated. “You always joke when we start talking about anything serious.”

“Sorry.” She cleared her throat. “No, I know, you’re right. Sometimes, I think it’s because I’m pregnant but most of the time, I think maybe there’s something real.” She hesitated. “Right?”

“I care about you,” Johnny confirmed. “And not just because you’re the mother of my child, though that’s pretty cool. And just for the record, I’m more than fine if your libido swings into overdrive. Anytime, you just call me. I can be in Port Charles in no time.” He grinned.

“Such a guy,” Nadine rolled her eyes, but she rested her head against his shoulder. “I care about you, too, Johnny,” she said softly. “More than I thought I would.”

“Ditto.” He pulled his fingers from the keys and she frowned, looking at up at him. “Nadine, these last two months have been the most normal of my entire life.”

“Since I know about the rest of your life,” she said, “I know that’s a good thing. I’ve really enjoyed it, too.”

“But I realized that I want more time with you,” Johnny continued, “two nights and one day a week isn’t enough. I know you’ve got a life and a career in Port Charles, so I’m willing to compromise and buy a place there for us but there’s a condition.”

“Oh, really?” Nadine could almost feel where this was going but she wasn’t sure if it was because it was simply logical or because she was so completely crazy about him that it was wishful thinking. “What’s the condition?”

He paused and licked his lips, nervously. “Will you marry me?”

She grinned, from one corner of her face to the other. “Oh, God, yes.” She threw her arms around his neck. “Definitely!”

Friday, July 5, 2024

 

Jake’s Bar

“You know, there are times when I think I should have been a doctor.” Pete Marquez, professor of English literature, threw back a shot of whiskey and set the shot glass down on the table with a thump.

“I bet those are times you have to make that alimony payment,” Ian Devlin remarked with a wicked grin. “Because you’d make more as a doctor.”

“Sometimes,” Pete agreed. “But mostly because I’m tired at looking at those idiot little faces.” He sighed dramatically. “I am burnt out.”

“He’s just annoyed because his face isn’t as pretty anymore,” Patrick taunted. He slapped his old college buddy lightly on the cheek. “The girls don’t swoon and Leila would rather rake him over the coals some more.”

“Leila,” Pete sighed. “She was excellent in bed but the second I put that ring on her finger, she was all about babies and picket fences, and why do I still flirt with the students and maybe I should stop going to the strip clubs.” He shook his head, disgusted. “It’s like she knew who I was when she married me and then she wanted to change it. Women.”

“Now, now, Pete, don’t forget,” Ian mocked, “our good friend Patrick has been happily married for like….forty years.”

“Haha,” Patrick said sardonically. “It’s been sixteen years and you know it. Some of us just know how to make marriage work.”

“Absolutely,” Pete agreed. “And your method is doing what your wife tells you to.”

“I do not do what my wife tells me to,” Patrick replied, insulted. He sipped his beer. “I merely pick my battles.”

“Uh-huh.” Ian leaned forward. “When was the last battle you picked?”

Patrick paused and tried to remember the last argument he’d bothered to have with Robin. When he couldn’t think of one, he frowned. “Maybe we’re mellowing.”

“Ha, someone has mellowed,” Pete crowed. “And it’s not the lovely Dr. Scorpio-Drake. She has got you so whipped.” He made a little whipping sound.

“Gee, you wonder why Leila took the kids and left you. I warned her and I’m pretty sure I warned you but you were in love,” Patrick teased.

“You’re such an ass,” Pete said without malice. “Hey, not everyone finds the right girl and manages to have the nice house in the suburbs with a minivan. I can’t really make fun of you because you had the good sense to find the one woman in the world that was more stubborn than you.”

“Seriously, though,” the eternally single Dr. Devlin began, “you don’t have a moment of doubt about where your life ended up?”

Patrick hesitated and brought his beer to his lips. He shrugged. “Sometimes. When Mal’s screaming at me or Anna’s stomping her foot for her ballet lessons or when Robin volunteers me to take the kids places without bothering to let me know. Yeah. I mean, sure, I didn’t really participate in any of the major decisions after I proposed. Robin set the date, she planned the wedding, she wanted to move, she wanted another kid. But most of the time, I’m okay with how things ended up.”

“You’re okay with it?” Pete echoed. “Well, if that isn’t a ringing endorsement of fatherhood.”

“Don’t put words in my mouth,” Patrick replied, irritated. “I love Robin and I think she’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m a better person because of her, and a better doctor. I love my kids and for the most part I don’t think I’m screwing up them up. But yeah, sometimes I do wonder what life would have been like if Robin hadn’t ended up pregnant.” He shrugged again. “I can’t imagine that thought doesn’t cross most married men’s minds once in a blue moon.”

“Here, here.” Ian raised his shot glass. “There’s something to be said about damn good fathers. There aren’t many of you out there. Most are more like our friend, Pete. He probably knows his kids names.” He paused and grinned. “Birth dates might be a stretch.”

“Ha, you’re very funny,” Pete muttered. “Remind me to run you over in the parking lot later.”

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Port Charles Police Department: Commissioner’s Office

There wasn’t much about Lucky Spencer that had changed over the years. As the only responsible member of the Spencer family left (Bobbie had passed away two years ago and his father had been gone for almost ten years now) he took his job as commissioner very seriously. Not that people paid much attention to the department these days. Since the bloody days of Port Charles mob had ended, the PCPD spent most of their time with petty crimes, domestic violence and traffic violations. It was good, safe work and Lucky liked to think he was making a difference.

His life was very calm, its only real complication was the ongoing custody disagreement he had with his ex-girlfriend Sam McCall, who never seemed to want him to see their daughter. Chloe Spencer-McCall was nearly eight years old now and it was really unfair that he only had her around for a handful of weeks a year. Fortunately, Sam was finally beginning to relax about letting Chloe out of her sight for more than five seconds so Lucky was going to have her for the entire month of August this year.

Life was calm, life was agreeable, but most importantly, life was predictable and Lucky was enjoying it.

Until his ex-wife’s youngest child walked into his office. Juliet Morgan resembled her mother in every way. Lucky couldn’t help but remember Elizabeth Webber at the same age though he doubted Juliet had ever drank or touched a cigarette.

“Ah, what can I do for you?” Lucky asked.

Juliet perched at the edge of the chair in front of his desk. “I was hoping you’d have a few minutes to talk to me about my mother.”

Lucky swallowed. “Does your father know you’re here?”

“No,” Juliet admitted, “but I don’t think he’d be mad. He’s a lot more open about Mom lately. He wouldn’t talk about her for the longest time but he’s finally starting to let up. He let me hang pictures up so now there’s one in every room.”

Lucky had heard rumors of how badly Jason had handled Elizabeth’s disappearance and the one where Jason never spoke of her and had boxed everything up had seemed a little far fetched but apparently it had been the truth. He cleared his throat. “No one really handled your mother’s…disappearance well.”

Juliet nodded. “Aunt Carly said you tried to take Cam away from her. And from me and Jake,” she added pointedly.

Lucky scratched the back of his neck. “Carly mentioned that? To you?”

“Well, no,” Juliet admitted. “She was talking to Uncle Jax about it once and she didn’t know I was eavesdropping.” She grinned. “You wouldn’t believe the things you adults say when you think we’re not listening.”

“Having been your age at one point, I can absolutely believe it. As for the Cameron thing…I wasn’t entirely in my right head. Elizabeth was always very important to me and a lot of people, including myself, blamed your dad for what might have happened to her. We wanted you three safe but of course, you and Jake were Jason’s biological children. Cam wasn’t.”

“He’s Cam’s dad in every way that matters,” Juliet said firmly. “Also legally. Mom let him adopt Cam when they got married, so I’m glad Aunt Carly fought to keep us together. Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”

“Oh, good,” Lucky said. He coughed, “I mean, I’m not particularly proud of that time period in my life.”

“Everyone says that you, Uncle Nik and Aunt Emily were Mom’s best friends,” Juliet said.

Lucky tilted his head to the side and smiled. “You call her Aunt Emily even though she died before you were born.”

“She was my dad’s sister and Mom loved her like one. Plus I’m named for her. Everyone says she would have loved me a lot,” Juliet said. “But they say that about Mom, too.”

“Your mom loved her kids,” Lucky said firmly. “A lot of people thought she just up and left because of your father. But I always knew that wasn’t true.”

“I know that she didn’t leave on purpose,” Juliet said, “and Dad seems pretty sure that he investigated every lead on his, er, side, so I guess what I really wanted to know is if you know of any enemies my mother made before she met Dad.”

Lucky frowned. “Juliet, are you, by chance, trying to find out what happened to her?”

“I know you’re going to tell me that I’m probably wasting my time,” Juliet replied, “but she’s my mother and I want to know what happened. My brothers and I deserve some answers. If it were your mom, would you ever give up?”

“No.” Lucky paused. “My mother actually had a similar experience. She disappeared without a trace for about two years. This was before I was born.”

“And no one knew where she was the whole time she was gone?” Juliet asked, curiously. “Like, did people think she was dead?”

“Yeah, I don’t know the specific details,” Lucky said, “But it was attributed to a recent rash of disappearances, I think. Eventually, she turned up. She’d been kidnapped by Stavros Cassadine and forced to marry him. That’s, unfortunately, how my brother Nikolas ended up being born.”

“Wow,” Juliet said, “I always thought Uncle Nik’s dad was just someone she married before your dad.” She pursed her lips. “So the Cassadines were able to just make your mom go poof?”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed. “Helena Cassadine – Stavros’s mother – was not someone you wanted to cross. She was evil – pure through and through. The happiest day in Nikolas’s life was when Helena died in Greece in 2011. The last of a very dark branch of his family.”

“But what about my mother?” Juliet pushed. “Did she make enemies of the Cassadines?”

“I guess, in a general manner,” Lucky shrugged. “But your mom was out of the feud for years before she disappeared.” He hesitated. “And I see what you’re getting at, but once Helena was dead, your mom could have found a way to come back, you know? She wouldn’t have stayed gone another thirteen years.”

Juliet huffed. “I know. But I’m not really in a position to discard theories. It’s the only one I’ve got. Any other enemies?”

“No,” Lucky shook his head. “I mean, I probably would have said Carly was an enemy at one point. They used to hate each other. And Sam McCall. But no one who would have done anything to her. They both loved Jason too much.”

“Well, I guess you’ve given me something to go on.” Juliet stood. Lucky got to his feet.

“Juliet, I hope you find the answers you’re looking for,” he said honestly. “Your mother was one of the best friends I ever had in my entire life and I’ve never given up looking for her. I always keep an eye out…” he hesitated. “You know…you should talk to my brother, Nikolas. He might know something more,” he said, thinking of the strange sighting Nikolas had related to him. “He’s a great source of Cassadine information.”

“I’ll do that.” Juliet stopped at the doorway. “My mom made a lot of photo albums when she was pregnant with me and Dad just gave them to me. You’re in a lot of them, you know. So you know, she still loved you, too. As a friend,” she added quickly. “I just thought you should know.”

“Thanks,” Lucky said quietly. He watched Elizabeth’s daughter exit and sank back into his chair. Helena Cassadine. He hadn’t thought about her in years but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Helena had had something to do with Elizabeth’s disappearance. Or death. Helena had always been vicious.

And she’d always held a grudge.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Davis Home: Backyard

Kristina leaned across her raft and tugged the headphones from her younger sister’s ears. “So, are you seeing Cam tonight?”

“Maybe.” Molly grinned and slid her sunglasses down to the bridge of her nose to wiggle her eyebrows at her sister. Despite the constant comparing Alexis did between Kristina and her, Molly still loved her older sister because she knew it wasn’t Kristina’s fault Alexis couldn’t accept Molly’s decisions. “He is definitely delicious. I’m glad I made him wait this long.”

Kristina snorted and laid her head back down on her raft, kicking off the side of the pool when she floated too close. “Please. You’ve had a crush on Cameron Morgan since you were twelve. He just never had the time of day for you.”

“Details.” Molly sighed and adjusted the top of her strapless bikini to make sure that her tan would go as low as possible. “Besides, we’ve got stuff in common.”

“Absolutely. He’s girl crazy and you’re boy crazy. It’s a match made in heaven.” Kristina laughed. “And I have to say, you are handling him much better than I dealt with Kevin. He couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”

“Couldn’t get away from Mom fast enough, you mean,” Molly corrected. “Cam knows how ridiculous Mom is so that solves a lot of problems.”

“She is not happy about her little girl dating a Morgan,” Kristina informed her. She sat up on her raft and tugged towards the side of the pool to grab a sip of her iced tea. “So you guys are sleeping together right?”

“Kris…” Molly rolled her eyes. “I am not telling you that!”

“Hey, we made a pact when we were in high school,” Kristina reminded her pointedly. “I told you about Remy and Kevin. And I know you’ve had sex before, so what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is…” Molly hesitated. “Yeah, we are. And I didn’t exactly make him wait all that long either.”

Kristina eyed her suspiciously. “What exactly is all that long anyway?”

“Third date,” Molly muttered, letting her hand drift into the cool water. She flicked water at her sister. “But we’ve known each other our entire lives. That matters.”

“Yeah,” her sister drew out, “but still, Mol—three dates? You don’t think he’s going to get a certain idea about your relationship? And what it’s based on?”

“Maybe,” Molly admitted. “But I also know that Cameron Morgan can pretty much date whatever girl he wants and he’s only home for the summer anyway. If I want him to date me the rest of the time, I have to give him a reason to.”

Kristina frowned. “Molly—”

“Krissy, just drop it, okay?” Molly said. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kelly’s: Courtyard

“Can I have ice cream?”

Johnny hoisted his daughter in his arms and started towards the door of the restaurant. “For my daughter’s birthday? You can have two scoops.” Amalia giggled and clapped her small hands on his cheek, blowing him a raspberry kiss.

“With sprinkles and whipped cream?”

“Maybe even some fudge.”

“That’s an awfully big sundae for such a little girl.”

Johnny stopped, his hand on the door. He had not heard that voice in nearly five years and he was not particularly glad to hear it on this day of all days. He turned, tightening his grip on Amalia. “Lulu.”

Lulu Spencer looked much as she did the last time he saw her, except that her long blonde hair had been trimmed to a neat bob resting under her chin. She smiled at him, like she hadn’t disappeared with a short note of apology. She smiled at him like she had seen him just the day before instead of years.

He’d loved her once, or he thought he had. He loved the idea of her, the idea of someone loving him despite the dark spaces inside. Lulu had wanted him because of those spaces and he knew now what a dangerous kind of love that could have been.

He had something much better and worthwhile now.

“Hey, Johnny.” She stepped forward and took Amalia’s hand in hers. “Who is this pretty girl?”

Even at three, Amalia had perfected a skeptical look. She looked to her father as if to ask, What the hell?

“This is my daughter,” Johnny said, sliding his hand around to Amalia’s back, holding her protectively. “Amalia, this is someone I used to know. Lulu Spencer.”

“Amalia,” Lulu repeated. “That’s an…interesting name.”

“It was Johnny’s grandmother’s name.” Nadine stepped into the courtyard, still dressed in her purple scrubs. She stepped up to the trio.

Lulu stepped back, frowning. “Nadine?”

“Mommy!” Amalia said, grinning. She reached her arms to her mother and Johnny calmly transferred the toddler to his wife.

“You and Nadine?” Lulu asked. “You guys have a kid together?” She looked back and forth between them. “Wow.”

“Why don’t you take Li inside?” Johnny said to Nadine. “Put in an order for a two scoop sundae with sprinkles and whipped cream.”

“And fudge,” Amalia reminded her father. “Daddy said I could have fudge.”

“Hmm, we’ll discuss sugar intake later,” Nadine told Johnny with a smile. She cast another look at Lulu and seemed to rethink leaving them alone.

“Go on.” Johnny put a hand on Nadine’s arm. “I’ll be right in.” Eventually his wife relented and went inside.

“Wow,” Lulu repeated. “You and Nurse Nadine. How in the hell did that happen?” She planted a hand on her hip. “I can’t imagine you as a father.”

“What do you want, Lulu?” Johnny demanded. “I can’t imagine why you bothered to come back after all these years.”

Lulu shrugged. “I still have family. I came back to help Lucky. He’s having a rough time, with Sam splitting and taking the kid.” She stepped over to the window where she could see Nadine settling Amalia into a booster seat. The sunlight from the window caught a glint on the nurse’s finger and Lulu could almost feel the blood draining from her face. “You married her.”

“Four years in December,” Johnny confirmed.

“So you’re a husband and a father.” Lulu turned to look at him. “I’m surprised; most marriages for the sake of kids fail.”

“I didn’t marry her because she was pregnant,” Johnny snapped. He shook his head. “I’m not talking about my family with you.”

“Oh, come on, Johnny.” Lulu touched his arm. “We were friends once. Why can’t we be friends again?”

“Friends don’t leave in the middle of the night with nothing but a note saying you’re sorry,” Johnny said flatly. He shook her arm off. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a date with my kid.” He didn’t glance back as he strode inside the restaurant.

Lulu looked back at the window to see Johnny join Nadine and Amalia just as the large sundae was delivered. Johnny sat next to the blonde and whispered something in her ear. Nadine giggled and turned to look at him. He tucked a piece of hair out of her face, smiling at her.

He looked happy, Lulu thought to herself. She’d never seen him smile like that—without an edge to it, without a shadow in his eyes. She would never have expected someone like Johnny to be satisfied with an ordinary nurse and kid.

She’d lied to Johnny when she’d told him why she’d come back. Sure, Lucky was annoyed that his ex-girlfriend had split with their one-year-old daughter Chloe, but he was pretty sure he could track Sam down for custody so he didn’t really need Lulu’s help.

No, she’d come home because she knew she’d made a mistake in leaving and she’d come home to claim the things she’d left behind.

Johnny Zacchara was at the top of the list. She paused, wondering if maybe she should rethink getting Johnny back. He did look happy, after all.

The moment passed and she shrugged. It couldn’t hurt if she tried to get him back. If his marriage was strong enough, then it wouldn’t matter what she did. If Lulu succeeded, then well, it was for the best to find out now and she was actually doing Nadine a favor.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Kelly’s: Courtyard

It seemed to be Lucky’s month for precocious teenage girls searching for answers about their parents. He was sipping his usual mid morning coffee, checking in on the new manager at Kelly’s when the Zacchara girl dropped into the chair across from him.

“I don’t think your father would approve,” Lucky said dryly.

“My father doesn’t do much in Port Charles anyway,” Amalia remarked. She propped her chin on her hands and smiled at him. “Your sister used to date my father.”

“Is there something in the water?” he asked. “Your best friend was just in my office a few days ago.”

“Well, seeing as how you’ve lived in the area for the last thirty years,” Amalia batted her eyelashes, “of course we would think you’d be an excellent source of information. Plus, Port Charles is practically inbred. Your sister apparently tore apart my parents and you used to be married to Jules’ mother.”

Lucky remained silent and Amalia huffed. “Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t know about my dad and your sister.”

“I can tell you that whatever happened was a long time ago and some things are best left in the past,” Lucky replied. “You’re not going to get any answers you’d be happy with, Amalia. I suggest you just leave it alone.”

“Would you?” Amalia asked. “My parents can’t be in the same room with each other.  I’ve never been able to remember a Christmas or a birthday when they’re together and not snarling at each other. They only put up with one other on the Fourth of July because Dad won’t risk offending Jason Morgan by not going and my mother is too polite to turn down the invitation. It sucks, Commissioner, and I have a right to know what role your sister played in how my life turned out.”

“What happened between the three of them,” Lucky said slowly, “is not something that I know much about.” And he was only speaking to her because she had a point. If Lulu Spencer had kept away from Johnny Zacchara a decade ago, perhaps this girl would have had a different childhood. “I know that they dated before your parents were married and my sister left town abruptly with very little warning. She didn’t come back until 2013, when you were about three years old. She was home in May and gone by August and I know that her quick exit had something to do with Johnny. I don’t know what.”

Amalia pursed her lips, unhappy with this news. She was hoping to find out that somehow her mother had been mistaken about an affair and she could take that news to them so they could forgive one another and be happy again. However, if her father had slept with Lulu Spencer, it would seriously put a crimp in her plans.

“Lulu’s home again isn’t she?” Amalia asked. “Where is she staying?”

“She’s in and out,” Lucky replied. “She’s out again for now but she’ll back in a week or two. She usually stays with me.” He hesitated. “I understand what you’re doing and it’s probably something I would do in your place. But I think you should be careful about what you find out. You may think you’re wise beyond your years, but I know that sometimes, you’re never old enough to find out a few truths. There are things about our parents that we’re better off not knowing.”

Amalia scrutinized him. “You’re probably right,” she admitted. “But I can’t stop trying to make things better because I’m scared of what I’m going to find out.”

Lucky finished his last sip of coffee. “I’ll give you a shout when she gets back,” he said finally. “Whether I think you should pursue this or not, Lu owes you for the family you might have had.”

“Thanks.” Amalia stood. “My dad said once that the worst thing that ever happened to the PCPD was Mac Scorpio retiring and you getting appointed.”

Lucky chuckled. “He never did like me much.”

“But he’s wrong,” she continued. “I think you’re perfect for it. Thanks, Commissioner.”

“Hey, Amalia—” he called after her, rising from his chair. “I hope I don’t have to arrest you at any point.”

She snorted. “Please, I’m Johnny Zacchara’s kid. You’ll see me plenty.”

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Wyndemere Estate: Stables

A lot of girls went through the pony stage. Juliet had hit it about age eight and Jason had researched it thoroughly (rather, he’d had Spinelli research it thoroughly) and when he was satisfied that she would be safe, he allowed her to sign up for lessons.

Unfortunately, it had taken six months to convince him and by that time, Juliet had left the pony stage and moved on to planting flowers and vegetables in the backyard. So she’d never been able to learn to ride a horse.

Today, watching Nikolas Cassadine and his son Spencer ride in from the fields, she was actually thankful that Jason had been so paranoid. The horses the two rode were huge! Juliet made sure to stay away from the fence. She didn’t trust those animals at all.

“Juliet…” Nikolas turned so that he would ride up against the fence. “What a pleasant surprise.”

“Um, yes.” Juliet smiled shyly. She had never had a close relationship to Nikolas or his son. They were already in London when she was born and because Nikolas only came back once a year, she did not have the relationship with him that she had with her uncle Jax or even Amalia’s father Johnny. “I’m sorry to just show up—”

“Nonsense.” Nikolas handed the reigns to a groom and nodded to Spencer. “Why don’t you join Spencer and I for lunch?”

“I couldn’t,” Juliet shook her head. “I was just hoping to talk to you for a moment.”

“Spencer, go tell Magdalena to set another place for lunch,” Nikolas told his son. The dark-haired young man nodded and grinned at Juliet.

“You might as well give in,” he said and Juliet was surprised to hear an accent in his speech. Of course, he’d lived in London for almost his entire life but it hadn’t occurred to her he’d speak that way. “Dad never rests until he has his way.”

“You should know,” Nikolas said dryly. “It will be good to get caught up, Juliet. I’m afraid we haven’t spent as much time together as we might have had…” he shrugged. “Had things been different.”

She cleared her throat. “Can we talk…” She glanced at Spencer, who was clearly very interested in what was going on. “Maybe we could have a second to talk?”

“Of course. Spencer?” Nikolas nodded. “Go on up to the house. Juliet and I will be there in a moment.” Spencer hesitated but finally disappeared up the path.

“Um,” Juliet hesitated. “So, I don’t know if you’ve heard but my father recently…well, he’s relaxed a lot about my mom, so I’ve been able to ask questions.”

“Nadine mentioned that Jason’s started to talk about Elizabeth more,” Nikolas nodded. “Grief is funny—”

“It wasn’t grief,” Juliet interrupted. “She’s not dead.”

Nikolas hesitated and a look of sympathy crossed his face. “Juliet—”

“No, I mean I guess it’s possible,” she continued quickly, “and I’m certainly going to consider it but I can’t—” Juliet stopped and took a deep breath. “I’m finally able to talk about her, to ask about her. Please don’t ask me to give her up again.”

Nikolas looked down for a long moment. “When your aunt Emily passed away, I did not handle it very well. In fact, I experienced hallucinations and I could still see her as a result of a brain tumor. It was very difficult to give that illusion up and no one could convince me until I was ready to have the surgery.”

“This isn’t the same thing,” Juliet said. “I just…I just want to know about her, figure out what might have happened to her. I deserve that.”

“Of course.” Nikolas leaned against the fence post. “What do you want to know?”

“I want to know if Helena Cassadine could have kidnapped her,” Juliet said bluntly

Nikolas stared at her. “Excuse me?”

“I heard about how she kidnapped your mother,” Juliet said. “That Laura Spencer just vanished one day and no one ever heard from her until she was able to escape. If she could do it once, why not again?”

He folded his arms across his chest and considered the question. “I suppose it could have been possible. Helena was certainly capable of it. But the question of why should be asked and why would Elizabeth not contact anyone after Helena died?”

“I don’t know,” Juliet admitted. “I hadn’t really thought about that. I just think it’s weird that it’s so much like what happened to your mom. I mean what if my mother couldn’t get in contact after Helena died? Maybe the fact that Helena died is the reason Mom never came back.”

Nikolas pursed his lips. “I shouldn’t tell you this,” he said. “But I suppose there’s no harm and you do have a theory that you should be able to pursue. I was touring my estates last summer and at the estate where Helena actually died…I saw a woman who looked like your mother.”

“Wait, what?” Juliet demanded. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“Because I don’t think it was Elizabeth,” Nikolas said honestly. “I believe she is dead. I don’t think it had anything to do with your father or her past. I think it was an awful random act that we’ll never know more about.”

“That’s not true,” Juliet said firmly. “I don’t believe that after everything my mother went through in her life, that she was killed in a random act of violence. There’s too much that doesn’t fit.  Someone went to the trouble of getting rid of the car, for one thing. Who does that?”

“I’m not saying there aren’t questions that should be answered,” Nikolas replied. “I just don’t want you to get your hopes about something that is unlikely. Juliet, your mother loved you—”

“I know, I’ve heard this before,” she cut in. “My mother loved me, she wouldn’t have left me. I’ve heard it all before. But I believe there’s more to the story and I want to find out.” She paused. “I’m going to find out.”

Patrick’s Minivan

“Dad? You just passed McDonalds.”

Patrick ignored his daughter and concentrated on the road in front of him. There were just too many insane drivers on the road and he did not trust them when he had his eleven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son in the car. If that driver in the red convertible did not slow down, Patrick might experience some sort of road rage.

“Dad? Aren’t we going to McDonalds?”

What were the people at the DMV thinking when they gave these idiots licenses? Didn’t they know there were children in the other cars?

“Dad, you just passed another McDonalds.” He felt something clunk in the back of his head and he swore, jerking the wheel.

“Anna, did you really just throw something at me while I was driving?” Patrick demanded through clenched teeth.

“You were ignoring me,” Anna said, exasperated. “You told me when you picked me up from ballet that I was going to get McDonalds.”

“We’re picking your brother up first,” Patrick explained, taking the turn for the high school. “And then we will meet your mother at Kelly’s. I don’t remember anything about McDonalds.”

“Well, I asked if we could go and you just grunted,” Anna explained. “Besides, Jeff wants McDonalds.”

Jeff, who rarely got a word in with his brother and sister around, shook his head. “No, sir!” he proclaimed. “I want ice cream from Kelly’s.”

“You are no help,” Anna huffed.

Patrick pulled to a stop in front of the school and waited for Mal to get in. When the teen continued to stand there and glare, Patrick switched off the ignition, opened the car door and stalked to the spot on the concrete where his stubborn son stood.

“Do you need a royal invitation?” he demanded.

“I’m not being picked up by my parents anymore,” Mal sneered. “You can’t make me.”

“Look, I have just had a very long day. I had a five hour surgery and then Jeff had a doctor’s appointment and your sister tried to kill us all by throwing something at me while I was driving. I do not need you or your attitude,” Patrick growled. He jerked his thumb at the car. “So get in the damn car.”

“You know, you keep bitching about shit like that and maybe Jeff and Anna will figure out you didn’t want them either!” Mal shot back.

Patrick didn’t often lose his temper with his kids but the tension between them had been building for months and finally, he lost it. He grabbed Mal’s collar and jerked him up an inch to his toes. “You get to say whatever you want, because you’re too old for me to control, but you don’t spew that bullshit around your brother and sister. They don’t deserve to hear that kind of crap! You think you’ve got all the answers? You don’t know shit about anything and I am sick of having to listen to you feel sorry for yourself.”

He released him and Mal stumbled back, shocked. “You were not a mistake,” Patrick bit out. “No, you weren’t planned but you were never a mistake. Even when I want to shove my foot up your ass, I was never sorry that I had a son. A man doesn’t stick around for almost twenty years if he thinks his life was a mistake. So you think about that for a while.”

“Dad—”

“Now get in the damn car.”

Friday, July 12, 2024

 

Metrocourt Restaurant

 

“I think I should have just kept my mouth shut,” Nikolas sighed. He sipped his wine. “Because I think it’s going to hurt her in the long run.”

Nadine nodded and pushed her chicken around her plate a little. “Maybe. But I think Juliet needs some time to figure out how to deal with her mother. She’s never been allowed to ask about her, to express any kind of desire to find out what happened. And you wouldn’t feel right if you knew she was looking and didn’t have all the information.”

“That’s true,” Nikolas murmured. He set his fork down. “You know me very well, Nadine. And to think I used to believe you were the most annoying nurse GH had ever hired.”

“That’s just because you knew I was right,” Nadine smirked. She reached for her glass of wine and took a long sip.

“How long have we known each other now?” Nikolas pondered. “Close to seventeen years?”

“Something like that.” Nadine smiled quizzically. “You waxing poetic in your old age?”

“I’m hardly that old,” Nikolas replied, slightly exasperated. He cleared his throat. “Nadine. I didn’t just come home to see Lucky.”

Nadine frowned. “Oh?”

“I’ve been giving this matter some thought,” he said. “And I think the time is finally right. Neither of us…we’ve never really been able to move on from our respective spouses.”

“That’s just…” Nadine huffed. “That’s inaccurate. If you are insinuating that I still love Johnny Zacchara—”

Nikolas held up a hand. “Not at all. But you have remained single. As have I. I thought someone would come along that I could love, but no one could compare to Emily.” He sighed and wiped his mouth with a linen napkin. “Nadine, we’re both old enough to know that real love is hard to find and even if we find it, it’s not guaranteed to last.”

“True,” Nadine said slowly. “What’s your point?”

“My point is that there come a time when you need to start thinking about how you’re going to spend your time. Spencer is going off to college, Amalia is getting older. There’s no reason for either of us to continue putting our lives on hold for them.”

“That’s…” Nadine shook her head. “I haven’t been doing that. It’s just…things are complicated. No one wants to date Johnny Zacchara’s ex-wife.” She scowled. “I know he’s been scaring them off for years, whether it’s just the mention of him or maybe he’s making an actual effort to make them back off.”

I’m not scared of Johnny,” Nikolas said simply. “Nadine, some marriages are made in fire and they last or don’t. Others, they’re founded on something stronger and more solid like friendship. I came home to ask you to marry me.”

This entry is part 9 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

Friday, December 17, 2010

Carly & Jax’s Home: Living Room

Carly had not particularly missed the part about motherhood where her toddler would wake up and demand to be fed with loud screams.

Cecily was definitely her daughter.

Carly yawned and set Cecily in her playpen where the eighteen-month-old immediately reached for her plastic piggy bank that made sounds when you slipped in the plastic coins. If it kept her daughter happy, she was all for it.

The last month had been one big blur from Jason’s first frantic call to the woman Carly had flipped out on in the restaurant lasst for speculating about Elizabeth and why she’d abandoned her family.

Carly could and had said a lot about Jason’s wife, but Elizabeth had been a mother first and foremost. It just didn’t feel like she would have left voluntarily, which left Carly with more sinister explanations.

She yawned and reached for the newspaper Jax had left. The usual headline about the missing nurse was plastered across it, but the article would say nothing Carly didn’t already know, so she bypassed that and went straight to the weather. At least that wouldn’t be slanted against her best friend.

She heard the door click open and she twisted on the sofa to find Jason standing on the landing. She shot up. “Jase—what’s up? You’re here early.”

“I need to ask you a favor.” Jason stepped into the living room and scrubbed at his eyes. He looked as though he hadn’t slept in the last month and Carly wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was the truth. She thought he might actually be dressed in the same clothes as the morning Elizabeth had vanished. The green sweater was wrinkled and his jeans had seen better days.

“Anything,” Carly pledged.

“I need…” he paused.  “I need you to look after the kids for a while.”

“Of course,” she replied, surprised. It was unusual for her to be actually be asked to look after the Morgan children. Over the last two years, Carly and Elizabeth had fallen into a pattern of switching the children back and forth so often that she almost felt like Cameron and Jake were her boys, as well. “For how long?”

“I’m not sure,” Jason admitted. “There are some people I have to track down. I have to know if…” He shook his head.

“Jason…” She hesitated. “There’s a lot of gossip going around, a lot of stupid people opening their mouths without knowing anything about you or Elizabeth. I know you don’t believe what’s being said.”

“Which rumors?” Jason asked quietly. “The one where Elizabeth was afraid of me and planned her disappearance? The one where I killed her myself because I was tired of her? Or the one where Elizabeth didn’t want to be a wife or a mother anymore and just took off.” He shook his head. “No. I don’t believe any of it. Elizabeth didn’t disappear on her own. She was taken against her will.”

“Elizabeth and I didn’t get along much,” Carly said after a long moment. “And I’ll admit it was mostly my fault. But she loved her kids, Jason. No one who knows her listens to the idiots out there.”

“It doesn’t matter.” He shook his head. “I have to track down some people to find out if they had anything to do with this and I don’t know how long it will take.”  He hesitated. “There are some noises coming from the Spencers. Lucky, mostly.  A little bit of Audrey and her brother Steven.”

“About the kids?” Carly demanded, her protective instincts kicking into overdrive. “Well, there’s nothing they can do about that. Jake and Jules are yours biologically and you adopted Cameron. Cam doesn’t have any blood relatives left. Lucky’s not his actual father and it’s not like Audrey really raised Elizabeth. Hell, she’s not even really Elizabeth’s grandmother.” She scoffed. “And where the hell has Steven been?”

“It doesn’t matter. I think they’re going to fight my custodial rights to Cameron,” Jason said. “I would put this off and wait until that’s resolved but I can’t let the trail get cold, Carly—”

“Of course not,” Carly replied. “You have to go find Elizabeth and bring her home. You take care of that, I’ll keep your kids safe and together. Jax and I will love them and care for them like our own. You know that.”

“I do,” Jason responded quietly. “I’m having Diane draw up papers to give you temporary guardianship. I asked her to make it as airtight as she can because I don’t know how far Lucky, Audrey or Steven will go but I want to be prepared.”

“Of course.” Carly crossed to him and put her hand on his arm. “I know how tough this last month has been and I wish there was more I could do.” She paused. “When will you go?”

“As soon as the papers are signed.”

“You’ll find her,” Carly said, in the same confident tone she’d used when Michael had fallen into his initial coma. This was different, she swore to herself. Elizabeth wasn’t lying in a hospital bed with a bullet in her head. Clearly, one of Jason’s enemies had taken Elizabeth and was toying with him before arranging for her release.

Jason would find Elizabeth and bring her home and in a year or two, no one would even remember this event.

She was sure of it.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Port Charles Library

 

Juliet tapped her fingers against the desk before clicking on another obituary. Helena’s death had been featured in the major newspapers in the area here, but also in London, in Paris, many areas of Italy and it seemed like every single Greek newspaper in print at the time.

Almost none of them were in English, so Juliet had her translator by her side and her father’s computer guru, Damien Spinelli on a teleconference. Spinelli was in Paris at another fashion show with his significant other, Maxie Jones, but had graciously agreed to help with her search. He, of course, told her that he had done all he could at the time to assist the great Stone Cold, but all trails had been cold almost immediately.

But Spinelli told her a piece of information that gave Juliet great hope – Jason had never looked into Helena Cassadine. Helena hadn’t been in Port Charles for five years previous to her mother’s disappearance and Elizabeth had been out of the feud for almost a decade anyway. It just didn’t make sense for Helena to have kidnapped her.

But the coincidences were too great. Nikolas had spied a woman resembling Elizabeth near the estate where Helena died? Helena died mere months after the disappearance? The fact that Helena had already made a woman disappear without a trace for two years in the 1980s. How could anyone dispute this?

Of course people could. And would. They had given Elizabeth Morgan up for dead almost from the moment she’d left. Even her own brothers believed it. Only her father held out hope and Juliet realized it was more of a survival mechanism. He had had to compartmentalize his loss in order to raise the children his wife had left behind but Juliet worried what would happen to him when they were gone. Jake would be gone to college in another year and she would be gone in four.  Cam was graduating and then going on to medical school.

In just a few short years, Jason would be left alone in that house and Juliet wasn’t sure how he’d handle that.

She rubbed her eyes. “I’m not sure how many more I can read without going blind,” she confided to Spinelli. “I wish I could get this database at home.”

“Sorry, Jules,” Spinelli shrugged. “I can’t do that across the ocean. If I were in the city—”

“No, it’s okay.” She yawned and clicked on another obituary. They were all the same. Helena Cassadine, almost ninety years old. Survived by one grandson, Nikolas. One great-grandson, Spencer. No mention of Alexis or Kristina and Molly. And no mysterious female.

Searching obituaries hoping someone would list an extra woman in Helena’s life had seemed almost futile from the beginning but short of going to Greece and searching for this woman Nikolas had seen, she didn’t have much to go on.

Maybe in a few weeks, she could convince Amalia to go. She wouldn’t pull that kind of thing off without her help after all. Juliet was never  good at pulling off the grander schemes without Amalia’s devious nature. Amalia always found the holes in their plans before they ruined everything.

Juliet finally found the obituary from the village near the estate. She scanned it and she almost missed it the first time, too used to reading the same thing. But something caught her eye and she went back, almost incredulous.

…survived by a grandson, Nikolas and a great-grandson, Spencer of London, Englad.. Also survived by a granddaughter, Maia Cassadine…

Maia Cassadine. Juliet tabbed to a search engine and did a quick search. Only a few hits existed – the obituary and a small mention of the art and crafts store Maia Cassadine ran in the same village. No pictures to make life easier. But still…an arts and craft store? A mysterious granddaughter out of nowhere?

She forced herself to take a deep breath. The Cassadine family was large and varied. How could she know for sure that no such relative existed?

“Spinelli, check out this obituary – Maia Cassadine, a granddaughter.”

“That is quite coincidental,” Spinelli mused. She could see something in his eyes that told her that maybe they were really on to something. She knew Spinelli felt guilty for never finding his mentor’s wife and the failure had been with him all this time. To bring home Mrs. Stone Cold (Spinelli had long ago grown out the nickname thing but he had been calling certain people certain names for so long that she wasn’t even sure he knew their real names) would redeem him in his own eyes.

“And I found this article –” Juliet sent the link and she could see that Spinelli saw the same connection that she had. “But before I tell anyone about this, I need to be sure that this woman doesn’t actually exist.”

“I’ll check birth records and dig in deeper to her past,” Spinelli pledged. “Shouldn’t take more than a few days, Jules. I’ll transfer whatever I find.” He hesitated. “I hope this works for you. For Stone Cold and the guys, too. You all deserve this and I’ll do my best to find out if this is for real or a dead end.”

“Thanks, Spinelli. My dad’s lucky to have you in the family.” She grinned. “We all are. Tell Maxie hi for me.”

“Will do.”

Juliet signed off the teleconference. Even if she never found her mother, at least she hadn’t given her up for dead without looking as hard as she could to find the truth.

And maybe she could have a miracle and she’d find her mother alive and well somewhere. It had happened for the Spencer family, why not for hers?

Kelly’s: Courtyard

“I’m going to ban CeCe from our games,” Morgan grumbled. He dropped into a chair and huffed. “Mal is completely useless with her there and I’m not entirely comfortable with her dating him at all.”

“Oh, it’s a little late to pull the big brother routine now,” Cameron scoffed. “They’ve been dating for like three months. And if Aunt Car hasn’t vetoed it based on his parentage, then you’ve got next to no chance of getting CeCe to break up with him.”

“My mother is being mature about the situation,” Morgan said. “Which is altogether new for her. Or maybe enough time has passed since whatever Robin Scorpio did to annoy her happened and Mom’s finally gotten over it.”

“Not likely. Aunt Car doesn’t know how to get over anything that pisses her off. She still grumbles about Sam McCall and that chick has been gone for over a decade.” Cameron glanced through the window into the restaurant where Molly was serving some customers. “What do you think about Molly?”

“She’s my cousin so I don’t think about her at all,” Morgan reminded him. “That’s illegal in about eight states. Probably more.”

“No, no.” He shook his head. “Just in general. Have you heard any rumors or anything about her?”

Morgan frowned. “I don’t pay attention to that shit. Why? Did you hear something?”

“Before you showed up at the court today, Mal was saying that Molly’s…” he shrugged.  “Been around a lot.”

“And he’s still breathing?” Morgan raised his eyebrows. “So what if she’s been with some guys? You’ve not exactly the Virgin Mary yourself. Don’t be an asshole, Cam.” He shook his head. “People call my mother a slut, you know? Still, after all these years. Because it was kind of common knowledge why she moved to town in the first place. And that she had about four different fathers for my brother. And she’s been married a few times. But my dad?” He jerked a shoulder. “Impregnated almost anyone woman who looked at him and slept with the rest. No one ever said a thing about that. It’s a stupid double standard and Molly’s too nice for that.”

“It’s not that she’s been around, I knew…” Cam shifted in his chair and leaned closer to his cousin so he could keep his voice down. “I knew I wasn’t her first and that’s not a big deal to me. As long as she’s not sleeping around with anyone while else we’re together, that’s all I care about.”

“So then why bring it up?” Morgan asked. “I would have knocked the shit out of Mal Drake for opening his damn mouth and anyone else who said anything.”

“The thing is…I think maybe…” Cam hesitated. “She made the first move. On the third date. I wouldn’t have considered it at least until she’d let pick me up at her door. I think maybe she thinks I won’t go out with her if she doesn’t put out.”

Morgan paused. “I guess that might be a possibility. There are a lot of girls who think sex will keep a guy with them. And you do have a certain rep for being a player. Add to that, her mom’s crappy track record and basically her asshole father never being around, it makes sense.”

“Those psych classes are showing,” Cam joked. He tapped his fingers restlessly on the table. “I like her. We’ve got a lot in common and there’s some history there. We’ve known each other most of our lives, you know? She’s not like the other girls I’ve been with.”

“So maybe you tell her that and she knows it’s more than sex.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t sound so difficult. Then again, she is a female. They tend to make everything more complicated than it has to be.”

Zacchara Estate: Conservatory

It was nearly five minutes before Johnny realized he wasn’t alone in the room. He let the strains of a concerto trail off and looked up to find his ex-wife standing near the entrance. The last time Nadine had been in this room with him had been the last time she’d been in the house at all. She’d packed up their daughter that day, went to the house in Port Charles and that had been end of their life together.

It had seemed like they’d come full circle at the time. It was in this room that he’d found out he’d be a father, he’d proposed to her in here and it had ended here.

“The butler let me in,” Nadine said quietly. She stepped forward. “You play even better now than when we were married.” When he said nothing, she cleared her throat. “Amalia plays, you know. I wasn’t sure if she had ever told you.”

“No,” Johnny said. “I found her playing in here one day and she told me she had learned to play on the piano at your house.” He paused. “The one you gave me, in fact. I would have thought you’d burned that long ago.”

“I thought about it,” Nadine admitted. “But then I’d remember you sitting there when Li was just a baby, teaching her to play the scales. And I couldn’t.”

At least there was that. He got up from the piano bench. “Why are you here?” he asked, not really enjoying the trip down memory lane. It was a life that was out of his reach and had been for nearly a decade. He had no interest in remembering things best forgotten.

“Something’s…” Nadine hesitated. “Something has changed in my life and it affects Amalia. We need to discuss it so we can move forward with some kind of agreement.”

Johnny frowned. “Are you sick?” he demanded. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sick—” She chewed on her lips. “Nikolas asked me to marry him and I told him that I was going to think about it.”

“Nikolas?” Johnny repeated. “Cassadine?” He shook his head. “You can’t marry him.”

“Why not?” Nadine planted her hands on her hips and glared at him. “At least he’s been in my life for more than five seconds. It’s more than I can say about your second wife. Or your third. Exactly how long did you know Candy and Bambi before you married them?”

“Candace and Bailey,” Johnny corrected through clenched teeth. “And that’s not the point. They weren’t from another country.”

“Which is why we need to discuss the arrangements we’d have to make,” Nadine retorted. “I thought we might want to try leaving the damn lawyers out of things for a change, but clearly you’re not interested in working this out between us—”

“Why the hell would you want to marry him anyway?” Johnny cut in. “You barely know him!”

“Don’t be an idiot,” she snapped. “You know very well Nikolas and I have been close since his surgery. I’ve known him longer than I’ve known you. He’s a good man, he’s a good father and he’ll treat me with respect, which is more than I can say for you—”

“That’s not fair,” he said hotly. “You like to paint our marriage as one long nightmare but you and I both know that’s not the way it was! We were happy, damn it, and I treated you better than I’ve treated anyone I’ve ever known!”

“Right up until you screwed Lulu Spencer!” she threw back. “You couldn’t have her, and here I was, knocked up with your kid. I was a fucking consolation prize and that was completely clear to me when she wandered back into town!”

“Don’t you dare stand there and act like everything that happened was my fault!” He stalked towards her. “I never gave you a single reason to think that I gave a damn about Lulu, but that didn’t stop you from grilling me every time I turned around, demanding to know if I’d seen her or talked to her and as for what happened the day you lost—”

“I don’t want to talk about that day,” Nadine cut in sharply, her lower lip trembling. “I won’t talk about it. You were with her and then you just made it worse by sleeping with her. You can’t deny it—”

“I don’t deny it,” he replied. “I could have lied to you. I didn’t have to come home and tell you the truth but we were always honest with each other and I thought you’d rather hear it from me than have it come from her.”

“I’d rather you hadn’t humiliated me and not done it all!” She dragged her hands through hair. “I wasn’t going through enough at that point? Do you have any idea how hard it was just to get up in the morning? To open my eyes, to get out of bed and pretend that nothing had changed? I really didn’t need to have Lulu Spencer shoved in my face to remind me that my husband had always loved another woman—”

“How was I supposed to know how you were feeling?” he demanded. “After you came home from the hospital, you never talked to me. You never even looked at me. You moved out of our room, for Christ’s sake. How the hell was I supposed to know a damn thing? You blamed me for not being there, like it was my fault—”

“I blamed you for being with her,” Nadine snarled. She turned away from him and took a deep breath, closing her eyes. “I can’t keep doing this anymore, Johnny. It’s supposed to get easier. We’ve been divorced longer than we were together and it just gets harder to look at you, to be around you. It’s not supposed to be this way.”

“So your solution is to marry someone just to get away?” Johnny threw his hands out to the side. “Is that it?”

“No.” Nadine turned around. “I’m marrying Nikolas because he’s a good man and he cares for me. I’m tired of being alone. Any man who might have been interested always seems to back off after a date or two. I don’t know if you’re actually doing anything or maybe it’s a side effect of the Zacchara name, but I just can’t do it to myself anymore. You moved on before I even left this house, why can’t you let me do the same?”

“He lives in another country!” Johnny exploded. “You think I’m going to let you take my daughter away from me? To take her to London so that maybe I’ll get to see her in the summer? You haven’t taken enough from me, you have to take her, too?”

“That’s not what I’m trying to do,” Nadine replied, frustrated. “That’s exactly why I came here, so that we can work out something that works for both of us.”

“We already have,” he said. He crossed his arms, defiantly. “The current arrangement is fine by me.”

“Fine,” Nadine sighed. “I’ll call my lawyer. She’ll contact yours. We’ll hash this out in court. Just like we always do. I was stupid to think we could get along for five minutes.” She stared him from tired eyes. “You’re right. We were happy once. I was happy. And I’m tired of being unhappy, so I’m going to do something to change that. I’m going to marry a man who cares for me and respects me. Nikolas thought you might fight a custody arrangement—”

“Oh, did he?” Johnny scoffed.

“And he agreed that he’d stay in Port Charles for as long as it took to settle any dispute. We want to be married as soon as possible.” She started for the door.

How could she marry Nikolas? The man was stiff and proper. Probably didn’t even know how to yell or show any sort of emotion. How could she say that a marriage to him would be better than theirs?

Johnny had loved her, had given her everything inside of him he’d had to give and now she was willing to waste herself on someone who just wanted her because he wasn’t altogether fond of anyone else?

It was absurd.

He couldn’t let it happen.

Just before she reached the threshold, Johnny strode up behind her, grabbed her arm and whirled back to face him. “He doesn’t love you,” he told her, feeling somewhat desperate now. “He can’t give you love and passion, how can you settle for less?”

“Passion is overrated,” Nadine said simply. “It’s cold and it’s empty without anything to back it up.” The corner of her mouth twisted up to form a sad smile. “And I’m used to settling for less.”

She tugged her arm from him and tried to leave again. This time, Johnny didn’t try words. He grabbed her arm, pulled back and kissed her.

For just a moment, Nadine let herself forget their situation and the reason for it. She just let herself remember how it had felt once to have this man in her life and in her arms. She knew the truth now –

She’d never fallen out of love with her husband.

She jerked away and stepped back, trembling. “I don’t know you thought that would change. I’m marrying Nikolas and there’s nothing you can do stop me.”

Nadine stormed out of the room.

And Johnny remembered that their last encounter in here had ended almost the same way.  He’d grabbed her to change her mind, to convince her that he didn’t want Lulu, that he didn’t even know how it had happened, that Nadine and their life together was all he wanted and somehow, he’d failed to convey any of that.

How could she not know how much he’d loved her then? Or, to his chagrin, how much he obviously still loved her now?

December 23, 2015

This entry is part 10 of 19 in the series Fiction Graveyard: Tangle

Thursday, September 23, 2011

Morgan Home: Living Room

It was just before dawn when he slid his key into the door and unlocked it. He pushed the door open and stepped into the home that had not been lived in for nine months. When he had walked out the previous December, he had told himself that the next time he stepped through the foyer he would know what had happened to his wife.

Or better yet, she would be at his side.

Instead, he had come home because he couldn’t justify staying away any longer. There were no more leads to follow, no more people to rustle up and interrogate. He had no idea what had happened to Elizabeth and no idea where to look next.

But he had three children that depended on him. Jake and Juliet weren’t old enough to know any better, but Cameron knew his mother was gone and he’d had enough upheaval in his life. The little boy had lost Lucky as a father figure already, and now, in the matter of a year, he’d lost his mother, the one constant in his life.

If Jason couldn’t bring Elizabeth home personally, he owed it to her and to their children to see that they were loved, cared for and raised in a way she’d be proud of.

He stepped into the living room and the first thing he saw was the large framed photograph of Elizabeth with Cameron and Jake the day of their wedding. She was leaning against the gazebo in the gardens at the Quartermaine estate, Jake in her arms and Cameron standing at her side. Her smile was wide and her eyes were sparkling.

She’d been so happy that day and Jason knew that she’d been happy each day that had followed for the next two years. Blending their lives together hadn’t been as difficult as they’d assumed. They had worked together to plan protection for their boys that each were satisfied with and by the time the wedding had taken place, even Elizabeth and Carly had found common ground. Their family was created that day and cemented in the years that had followed.

He couldn’t accept that Elizabeth had just driven away from him, their children and the life they’d fought so hard to have. She loved him and he loved her. She never would have left him. Not without a fight.

Jason put his duffel bag down next to the sofa and felt his throat constrict with every reminder of Elizabeth that he could see. The photos that she had lined the room with, the caftan blanket that draped over the sofa. A bottle of nail polish that she’d used the day she left that he’d never cleaned up. He knew Carly had been in and out over the last year, picking things up for the kids and keeping it clean and paid for but clearly, she had instructed that nothing was to be touched other than the dust.

He appreciated what she’d tried to do for him but now he wished he’d called ahead and told her to put these things away. To put these pictures and belongings and mementos in a box so that he wouldn’t have to look at reminders of a life that was no longer his.

He picked up the photo of Elizabeth and the boys. He looked at it for a long time, drinking in every line of her face, memorizing her smile and her eyes. He placed it back on the shelf and went into the kitchen. He opened the closet where cleaning supplies had been kept and dragged out an old box left over from a purchase he couldn’t remember.

Jason took the box into the living room and methodically began placing each frame inside carefully. Photos of Elizabeth with him, with the boys, with Juliet, alone, even ones that just reminded him of her – they all went in the box.

When he was done with those, he took the bottle of nail polish and the caftan and placed it on top. He closed the box and tucked it under the coffee table.

Jason grabbed his bag and went upstairs into his bedroom. He dropped his bag and then went to the closet in the hallway where Elizabeth had kept her luggage. He dragged the entire set into the bedroom. He unzipped one of the bags and opened her dresser drawer.

Jason carefully packed all the clothes that he could fit into her suitcases and then packed her makeup and hair materials into the toiletries bag. The dresses and things hanging in the closet remained in their place for now. He would arrange for permanent storage later.

By the time he called Carly later that afternoon to tell her he was home, the Morgan home had been carefully stripped of anything that would remind him of his wife. It wouldn’t drive out the memories but maybe, just maybe, it would keep him sane long enough to perform the task of raising the children she’d left behind.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Miller & Davis: Diane’s Office

“Oh please don’t tell me you’re under investigation again,” Diane Miller sighed. She pressed her perfectly manicured hands against her desk and pulled herself to her feet.  “I think I’m getting too old for this. You’re going to have to wait until Alexis’s daughter finishes law school, which means you must be on your best behavior for the next four years.”

“That’s not why I’m here,” Jason answered, more than used to Diane’s diatribes. She was the only lawyer he’d ever had that had managed to stick around for so long but he knew she was tiring of it. Alexis had attempted to forbid Kristina from pursuing employment with the organization but Jason was aware that Diane was training Sonny’s daughter to take over for her one day.

It was just a stark reminder of how much had changed in the time Elizabeth had been gone. The morning she’d vanished, Kristina had been in elementary school talking about ponies and fairies and now she was about to enter her senior year of college.

Jason lowered himself into the chair. “There’s something I need to discuss with you.”

His sober tone worried her and Diane sat back down. “All right. I’m all ears.”

“I wanted to look into…” He stopped and shook his head. “I never wanted to do this but I think it’s time for some closure. The kids need it more than I do. Juliet still thinks…” Jason exhaled slowly. “What is the process for declaring someone legally dead?”

Diane’s lips formed a silent oh and she leaned back in her chair. “As your legal counsel, I can tell you that it would be a simple matter of filing some papers, attending a hearing and publishing a new notices. With Elizabeth being gone for over a decade, you wouldn’t find much hassle.”

“I thought so,” Jason replied quietly. “I was hoping it would be more difficult.”

“I can see why you might want to take this course,” Diane continued. “It would give a lot of people a chance to say goodbye. You could make it official with a viewing and perhaps a ceremonial stone placed—” She stopped and tilted her head to the side. “Can I be frank with you?”

“I wasn’t aware you were ever anything but,” he responded.

“I respect you for considering this,” she said. “And I admire you for waiting as long. Most men wouldn’t bother with this process. They would simply divorce their wife, citing abandonment and they would have moved on to someone else by now. But not you, Jason. You held out hope longer than anyone could have expected you to and I suspect that you haven’t given up. You just wish to do this for your children. And I respect that as well. All that aside, I don’t think you should do it.”

Jason frowned. “No?”

“I am a cynical person by nature,” Diane admitted. She spread her hands out in a careless shrug. “I don’t believe in most ideals and I think optimism is for suckers but I had the privilege of going to your wedding. And arranging your adoption of Cameron, so I have some first hand knowledge of your life with Elizabeth. I know how much you loved her then and I don’t imagine that it’s paled despite the passage of time.”

She leaned forward. “I think you should discuss this with your children. They have a right to be involved with this decision, especially if you’re doing it for them. Don’t do it because you think it’s what’s expected of you. If I had had an ounce of what you shared with your wife, I don’t know that I would ever give up hope.”

Morgan Home: Driveway

“Hand me that wrench?”

Juliet peered out over the array of tools Cam had spread out on a towel on the ground next to his car. “Which one is the wrench?”

“Jules.” He slid himself out from underneath the vehicle. “Are you kidding me?”

“Look, it’s not my fault you’re not talking to Jake and have to depend on me.” Juliet pursed her lips and picked up one. “Is that it?”

“That,” Cameron said patiently, “is a screwdriver.” He picked up another and held it in front of her. “This is a wrench.”

“Duly noted,” she said dryly, setting the screwdriver back down. Cameron slid himself back under the car and continued his work. “Are you and Jake just not going to talk all summer?”

“If he keeps acting like an asshole, it’s a distinct possibility, yes.”

“Boys are so dumb,” she sighed. She shifted into a different seating position, crossing her legs and leaned back on her hands. “You should hang out more with Spencer Cassadine.”

“What?” Cameron slid out again. “That’s a pretty random suggestion.” He narrowed his eyes. “Jules.”

“Yes?” she asked innocently.

“He’s too old for you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, good God. I’m not going to like jump him or anything. He’s not even going to be around past the summer. He’s going away to college in like London. I just think he’s nice. Aren’t he and Morgan close? They’re supposed to be cousins.”

“Morgan’s supposed to be cousins with half of the population. He barely talks to his own half-sister, you think he’s cozied up to a cousin he sees once a year for five minutes?” Cameron grabbed another tool and slid back.

“People just don’t appreciate family in this town,” she huffed. She sat up and folded her legs Indian style. “So you and Molly have been seeing each other for a couple of weeks.”

“Molly’s not close to him either,” was his pithy reply.

“Haha,” she muttered. “No, I was just inquiring if you were actually serious about this one or if she’ll be like your last summer fling.”

“She’s not—” Cameron broke off and swore under his breath. “I’m not going to discuss this with my little sister.”

“Ha, I told Lia you guys were having sex,” Juliet grinned. “You could so tell—” she was startled when her brother slid out and sat up, looking somewhat pissed off. “What?”

“What the hell are you doing discussing my sex life with Amalia?” Cameron demanded. “Whose business is it what Molly and I do?”

Juliet frowned. “We were just talking about it in passing. Everyone talks about sex, Cam, don’t be such a prude. It’s not just you and Molly. We talked about Mal and CeCe, but we don’t think they’re sleeping together, which is good because Lia and I don’t think you should give it up before you’re at least sixteen.”

Cameron pressed his lips together in angry line. “Juliet, I don’t appreciate you talking about Molly or CeCe like that. How would you like it if someone did that to you?”

Juliet hesitated. “We didn’t do it to be mean. I like Molly. I always have. And I’m glad you guys are together. I think she’s a nice match for you. We were just talking. Lia and I are the last people to spread malicious gossip. Someone wrote slut on her locker last year and she had to beg the school not to call her parents.”

“Why would someone do that?” he asked. “I was under the impression Lia doesn’t really date.”

“She doesn’t date period,” Juliet clarified. “She’s holding out for Jake and he’s got this thing about their age difference. Anyway, she thinks that she just turned down the wrong idiot but it was pretty bad for a while and she was upset about it.”

“She’s holding out for Jake?” Cameron repeated. “She could do better.”

“You’re only saying that because you’re mad at him right now.” She hesitated. “I wish he got along better with Dad. It feels like they’ve argued about everything for as long as I can remember.”

“They have.” Cameron disappeared back under the car. “Since Jake was in third grade and came home crying because someone told him that his father had killed his mother and buried the body in the backyard. Jake demanded to know what happened to Mom and Dad finally told him. Jake started to pay attention to the gossip around town about shit that happened before they got married and it just got worse from there.”

“What happened before they were married?” Juliet asked curiously.

There was a long pause if Cameron were trying to decide if he should tell her. Finally, he sighed. “You know how Mom used to be married to Lucky Spencer? That he was raising me for a while?”

“Sure. And I know that she was married to him when she had Jake, but then Dad told her he loved her and they got married right?” Juliet answered.

“Not…exactly.” Cameron slid back out and sat up. “She lied to Dad at first about who Jake’s dad was. Because Dad was seeing someone else and she thought he didn’t want him. So she let everyone believe Lucky was Jake’s dad.”

“Oh,” Juliet bit her lip. “I guess that explains why he tried to get custody of you after Mom disappeared. Maybe he was still a little angry about that.”

“Well, it kind of gets worse. Even after Dad found out the truth, he stayed with the other woman and they both continued to lie to Lucky. And even after they were both free to be together, they only saw each other in secret. Lucky was still claiming Jake, to keep him safe.”

“So how did they end up getting married after Michael and Sonny died?” Juliet asked, bewildered.

“Well, after Michael was killed, Dad tried to break off the engagement and reneged on his decision to claim Jake in public,” Cameron continued. “But after a few weeks, he and Mom decided they couldn’t do it anymore and by then, Sonny was dead. Dad decided that instead of retaliating against Johnny, they would strike a new truce. He had to do a lot of maneuvering with the other families but that’s when things started to change. When Dad felt like things were safe, he and Mom set a wedding date. Gradually, people learned the truth and by the time they were married, Dad had adopted me and claimed Jake legally.”

“So Jake’s mad at Dad not only for what he thinks happened to Mom but because he let everyone believe Jake was someone’s else’s son?” Juliet asked.

“I wish I knew,” Cameron answered. “Look, I think Jake’s got some good reasons to be a little ticked about how things went down when he was little. Maybe he feels like Mom had to force Dad into it. And maybe he thinks Dad let Mom down a lot before they were engaged. I don’t remember a lot of it, but I know she worked double shifts all the time. I know that we didn’t have a lot of money and I remember her crying about being evicted at one point. I think Dad could have done more to support her, found a way to give her some money but maybe she was too proud to accept it. I don’t know. And unless Dad decides to get chatty about it, we won’t ever know.”

“What do you think it would have been like if Mom had been around?” Juliet asked softly.

Cameron hesitated. “Well…I think we’d have a bigger family,” he said after a moment. “Definitely another sibling, if not two. Mom…she really wanted a big family. I think she wanted another sister for you, so she probably would have kept going until she had one.” He paused. “I think Jake would be happier in general. And maybe she could have explained his birth in a way he could have accepted. I think Dad would be a different person. He wasn’t…he’s a great dad, Jules, but he was different when Mom was around. He was smiling, he even laughed sometimes.”

“I wish…I wish I knew her,” Juliet said quietly. “I know a lot about her, I have these pictures but it’s just…it’s not the same.”

“She’d like you, Jules,” Cameron told her. “You would have been close. She was funny and she was loyal. She would do anything for her friends and for her family. You’ve got all that. I don’t know for sure how our family would be different if Mom had been around, but I know she loved us all and that she loved Dad.”

“You think she’s dead, don’t you?” Juliet said. “You and Jake both think she’s dead. He blames Dad for it. Do you?”

“I don’t blame anyone,” he answered. “I don’t know for sure that she’s dead, but I can’t think of any other reason why she’s not around. Can you?”

Juliet hesitated. “Yeah…actually I can.” She reached to the edge of the driveway and grabbed the large bag she hauled around everywhere. She withdrew a folder and handed it to him. “I think she was kidnapped, that Helena Cassadine did something to her to make her forget who she was and then Helena died before she could do whatever she had planned.”

Cameron stared at her for a long moment. “Jules—”

“I know what you’re going to say, Cam, and I know it sounds crazy, but you have to believe me. This isn’t some crazy theory. I researched it. First, Helena did have a thing about Mom. She tried to make Nikolas kill her once. And Helena’s got the resources to do something like this, she did it to Laura Spencer years ago. Also, there’s an obituary from Rafina, Greece for Helena that mentions a granddaughter Maia. I asked Spinelli to look into her and there was no record of Mai before December 2010. Now she owns an arts and crafts store in Rafina – the same place where Nikolas saw a woman he thought looked like Mom last year. It all fits, Cam.”

“And the folder?” Cameron asked, arching an eyebrow. He set it down and wiped his hands free of grease so he could look at it more closely.

“It has the obituary, the article about the store and the delayed birth certificate Spinelli found for her. The parents listed? No record of them anywhere. He dug into the birth records and didn’t find anything that coincided with Maia’s past. She just appeared out of nowhere a month after Mom disappeared.”

“Why haven’t you taken this to Dad?” Cam asked, glancing at the documents inside.  “I would have thought you’d be all over flying there immediately.”

“What if Dad agrees to go look and it isn’t her?” Juliet asked. “What if I get his hopes up, and yours and Jake’s…what if we all start to believe it’s her and it turns out it isn’t? The whole reason I wanted to find out what happened to Mom is to make everyone else feel better. What if this does the opposite?”

“What if it is her, Jules?” Cam asked. “What if you never said a word and things keep going the way they are around? Sure, now we can talk about Mom in the open and ask Dad questions, but are things really any better?”

“I thought you were sure she was dead,” Juliet replied.

“I don’t know for sure, I just couldn’t figure out anyway to explain things.” He held up the folder. “This? Explains things. I bet Dad never thought about Helena Cassadine, especially since she died a few months after Mom left, and he was still concentrating on his own people at that point. Jules, I’m not saying that I definitely think this is Mom, but I think you’ve got something here that you can’t ignore. You have to tell Dad.”

He handed her back the folder. “Good work, kid.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. “I totally forgive you for trying to drown my dolls in the backyard pond when I was five.”

Morgan Home: Jake’s Room

Jake was throwing a tennis ball against his wall when he heard a knock at his window. He glanced over and nearly fell out of his desk chair. “Amalia!”

He opened the window to let her climb through. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Jules called me a little while ago. You had another fight with Cam and your dad.” Amalia closed the window behind her and plopped down on his bed, leaning back on her hands. “She thought you were upset and you wouldn’t talk to her. She thought you’d talk to me.”

“My sister is mistaken,” Jake muttered. He tossed the tennis ball in a drawer and crossed to his bedroom door. “You can take the stairs this time,” he said, opening it.

Instead, Amalia shifted until she was lying down on her stomach, propping her head with her hands. “Jules said you and your Dad argued about your grades. Apparently, you landed yourself in summer school and you didn’t bother going. The school called and your dad grounded you. He took away your car keys. Which sucks for you because you just got that car for your birthday.”

“I’m not interested in summer school. What’s the point?” Jake sat back at his desk. “Like I’ve got an actual future.”

“Oh, come on…” Amalia sat up. “You’re not going to pull that ‘I’m Jason Morgan’s Son So I’m Going To Inherit Whether I Like It Or Not’ bullshit. That’s not true and your dad would be the first to say so. What about Cam?”

“Cam’s not his biological son and everyone knows it,” Jake argued. “You wouldn’t understand. You’re a girl. No one thinks you’re going to take over your dad’s business.”

“You’re just being an idiot now,” Amalia shook her head. “You keep this up and I’m not going to wait around for you to notice me.”

“I’m not in the mood to play that game right now,” he grumbled. He turned away from her and punched a few keys on his keyboard.

She stood up and crossed to him, folding her arms on the back of his chair and leaning down. “Jake. You’re just so determined to be mad at the world for what you’ve been dealt that you’re just making up reasons to be angry. You don’t have a mother and you blame your father for it. That’s sad, but it’s not the end of the world. Your dad grounded you because he wants you to do well in school so that you can have a future that’s not about the violence. He can’t get out all the way, but he’s tried so hard to shield you guys from it. My father has done the same. They’ve worked themselves to the bone to keep us clear of danger so that we have choices.”

“His life got my mother killed.”

“Maybe,” Amalia said soberly. She twisted his chair around so he was looking at her. “But she loved him and she married him. You can’t tell me she didn’t know exactly who he was before she stood before God and swore to love him. You can’t hate him for the choice your mother made. And you can’t punish him for what happened to your mother anymore than he punishes himself. Everyone knows that he’s never forgiven himself. My mother said that if it weren’t for you guys, he would have never come home. He would have just been wandering around the world, following any lead no matter how unlikely it was. He loved her, Jake, and my mother said he would have died for her. Stop punishing him and stop making your life more difficult than it has to be.”

Jake shook his head. “Li, you just don’t understand.”

She wanted to argue with him, but her cell phone rang. She tugged it out of her back pocket and answered it. “Hey, I didn’t think I’d hear from you so soon—oh? Good. Thanks.” She closed her phone. “Lulu Spencer’s coming home on Friday.”

Jake regarded her suspiciously. “Do you really think she’s going to give you answers?”

“I’m not going to give her a choice,” Amalia said. “I don’t know what she did to make my father cheat on my mother, but I don’t believe he did it just for the hell of it. I can’t believe that.”

“Now who’s making things up in their head?” Jake asked.

Friday, July 19, 2024

Kelly’s: Lulu’s Room

Lulu Spencer yawned as she unlocked the door to her room. She really needed to stop the overnight flights—it was hell on her in the morning. She would have to schedule a stop over from now on.

She flicked the light on and a short scream spilled from her lips at the unfamiliar teenage girl seated at the small table in her usual room. “Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Amalia Zacchara,” she replied. “And you’re going to tell me how you wrecked my family and ruined my life. You owe me that much.”