You know, it didn’t hurt as much I thought it would to write Franco. Written in 28 minutes.
Webber Home: Living Room
Elizabeth had shuffled the boys off to the bus stop, letting Cameron walk his brothers by himself. She’d given all three of them extra hugs, though Jake was still annoyed with her about the previous night.
Well, being a mother wasn’t supposed to be about winning a popularity contest.
She was relieved when Franco had called earlier that morning to tell her he’d be home around ten—that the boys would be safely in school, and she wouldn’t have to deal with any of this with them in the house.
It had been less than twenty-four hours since she had made the decision to break off her engagement, but with every minute that passed, her confidence built that she was making the right decision. Not just for her boys, but for herself. She hadn’t allowed herself to admit that her own happiness had been ebbing.
It wasn’t just that Griffin had given her reasons to doubt Franco’s brain tumor and the clean slate the world had given him after the surgery. Franco had, in many ways, proved himself at least capable of being better, and she could truly tell herself that he was not the same man that had committed the crimes against them all those years ago. But he was still capable of violence, and her memories of Manny Ruiz and his eventual return to the same sadistic man he’d been once lingered now.
And the lies, the constant jealousy and suspicion he had shown her since the truth about Jason and Drew had emerged—it wore on her, and Elizabeth had realized the previous evening that she hadn’t even reached out to Jason since he’d been home. Hadn’t been a friend to him.
Hadn’t stood by him. Because it would have made Franco upset.
Really—there were just so many reasons that Elizabeth should walk away from him now and not compound the problem by planning a wedding that she didn’t even want anymore that she wasn’t even sure which one to use when he came home today.
She twisted the slim gold band between her fingers as she waited for him to return. Rehearsed and prepared the reasons. She couldn’t mention Jason and Franco’s jealousy. That would just make it worse—and she wasn’t sure bringing up the tumor would be good.
When the door finally opened shortly after ten that morning, Elizabeth still wasn’t entirely sure what she would say—only determined to say something.
“Hey.” Franco’s smile was wide as he set down a duffel bag and crossed the room to kiss her. Elizabeth took an involuntary step back, and that smile faded. His dark eyes narrowed. “What’s wrong? Are you mad about something?”
“No.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. Held out the ring. “I just—I can’t marry you.”
He stared at the ring. Didn’t lift a finger to take it. “Why?” His voice was low, tight. “I left yesterday morning, and everything was perfect—”
“It hasn’t been perfect for months,” Elizabeth said. “And yesterday, I faced it. I’m sorry, Franco. It’s just—I need to do this for me. For my boys—”
“I love those boys,” Franco interrupted, his eyes snapping back up, lit with irritation. “You know how important Jake is to me. And Cam and Aiden—”
“And that’s the problem right there.” Elizabeth set the ring on the side table, resolute now. Convinced. “You always set Jake apart. And they’ve noticed it. I can’t raise my boys in a home where one of them is favored above the others—”
“That’s not—” Franco hissed. “Jake and I just have a special relationship—I should make more of an effort—”
“It shouldn’t be an effort,” Elizabeth said with a shake of her head. “And it’s too late. They already feel as though I favor Jake. And with everything that’s happened—with all the focus on Jake for the last two years—I can’t let another day pass where my boys feel less. I grew up in a home like that.”
“Give me a chance to make it better,” he pleaded, stepping towards her. But she took another step back, and he scowled. “Is that the only reason? Or is it Jason? That’s what it is, isn’t it? It was his day with Jake, and he’s been poisoning you against me—”
“Jason doesn’t bring you up unless I do,” Elizabeth said, with a roll of her eyes. “He’s always let me make my own choices. Even when he knows they’re mistakes—”
“Oh, because he’s so goddamn perfect!” Franco said, throwing his hands up in the air. “I knew this would happen! I knew you’d leave me for him—”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” she said flatly. “I’m leaving you because my boys don’t like you. Because I’m tired of always having to reassure you. Every time you question me—every time you try to make me doubt myself—” She took a deep breath. “I let Lucky get away with that for years. He accused me of having affairs, of settling, of not loving him—not trusting him—and every time I let it go, he chipped away at my self-respect. At my esteem.”
“I’m not Lucky—”
“But you’re doing the same thing.” She held up her hands to ward him off when Franco stepped towards her again. “You have lied constantly to me since Jason came home—since we found out about Drew and the memory mapping. You kept the truth about their identity from them—from Jake. You made it worse—”
“You said you forgave me—”
“I let it go because I wanted to make it better for you.” Elizabeth’s mouth twisted as she grimaced. “And I didn’t even know I was doing it. I have spent my life trying to make everything better for the people around me. For Lucky. For Ric, for Jason. For you. Well, I’m done with it. I am done being accused—”
“Elizabeth, just give me a chance—”
“I’ve given you chance after chance after chance. And you continued to lie.” She tipped her head. “And we both know there’s still things you’re keeping from me. I know there’s more to Betsy’s story than you’ve told me. And I’ve ignored it. But I’m just tired of it. I’m putting myself first. And I’m puttting my boys first. So I’m sorry. But this is over. And I want you to go.”
“Go?” Franco snapped. “Where? This is where I live—”
“You can live somewhere else. Back at the studio. At a hotel. I don’t really care.” Elizabeth felt something in her chest relax at that. She didn’t care where this man went. She just wanted him gone.
“I’m not leaving.” He shook his head. “You just need to listen to me. To let me fix this—”
“There’s no fixing this.” She edged around him, moving towards the table where she had left her cell phone. There was a light in his eyes, a clenching of his fists—and she felt…not scared.
Just…concerned. That he might not go without a fight. That he might—
She didn’t know. She just knew she had to get him out of here.
“You can come back for your things. I’ll have them packed.” Elizabeth picked up her cell phone, and hissed as he grabbed her arm and swung her around, his fingers digging into the soft sweater she wore. “Let me go!”
“Not until you listen to me! You can’t walk away from me! You said you loved me!”
“Let me go now.” Elizabeth wrenched her arm away and held out the phone. “Get out. Or I’m calling the police.”
Franco snorted with derision. “The police can’t make me go. I have rights, you know. Tenants rights. I’ve lived here long enough—you can’t just kick me out—”
Something exploded in her chest, her heart started pounding. Was this the face Carly had seen? Was this the side of the man she’d been warned about?
God, how many times did she have to give her trust to a monster before she learned?
Elizabeth looked down at her phone and pressed home button. “Siri,” she said. “Call Jason.”
“Don’t you dare—” Franco snarled, his nostrils flaring as he stepped towards her. “I knew it. I knew you’d throw him in my face—”
“Elizabeth?” Jason’s voice came through the speaker. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m breaking up with Franco, and he refuses to leave. I don’t know that the police would make him go—” Elizabeth continued to back away, towards the front door.
“Get out of the house—I’ll be right—”
“I’m going,” Franco growled. He stalked past her, yanked up the duffel bag and shoved the door back open. “You’ll be sorry.”
The door slammed, the frame shaking in his wake.
Elizabeth closed her eyes, took a deep breath. “Jason, I think I need someone to change my locks.”
“I’ll be right there,” Jason said. “Lock all the doors. I can be there in ten minutes.”