May 24, 2018

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Smoke and Mirrors

She saw the mark one morning while she was brushing her teeth.

Elizabeth Webber took care to wake an hour before either of her rambunctious sons crawled out of bed.  She used that hour to drink a cup of coffee, take a shower, pay her bills—do any number of the thousands of things that required her attention so that when her boys were awake, she could be with them one hundred percent.

It was important to them that her babies always felt like they were the center of her attention—that nothing was more important than them. No one would ever accuse Elizabeth Imogene Webber of not putting her kids first.

She couldn’t say for certain that the mark hadn’t been there the morning before—or even that it hadn’t been there when she had gone to sleep.

It was there now—just a tiny, pale pink shape at the base of her thumb. An inverted pentagram.

Elizabeth stared at it, the tooth brush sliding from her fingers into the porcelain sink, the white paste mingling with the water still pouring from the faucet.

She ran her fingers over it, lightly at first, and then, her breath mixed with half sobs, digging at it with her nails.

But it wasn’t a scab. It wasn’t a stain from her inks or markers.  It was part of her skin, staring at her as if it had always been there.

Her mother had had a similar mark. So had one of her aunts. According to the stories Elizabeth had been told as a teenager, two of the three Devane women had seen the mark appear at their birth. But it was supposed to be over—a curse cast generations ago by a scorned enemy of an ancestor, broken by Elizabeth’s mother and aunts.

And it had been broken—Elizabeth was the first woman in more than six decades to have a son—two of them—and see them past their fifth birthday. Cameron was nine, Jake was seven.

She stared at the mark, reddened by her nails, and closed her eyes.

Oh, God. Would she be dead in five years? What would happen to her boys? Was this the fear her mother had known in the days leading up to Elizabeth’s birth? Knowing that even if Gracie Devane Webber did everything right, she would never see her daughter grow up? Gracie and her sister Maria had sacrificed their lives to break the curse so that Elizabeth and her cousin Nadine could have a chance at a normal life.

But it had been a lie. Elizabeth had been granted merely more time but not a lifetime.

She opened her eyes and stared at her reflection in the mirror.

There was no choice, not really. She should have known it would always come to this.

She would have to go home.

Home was not here in New York City, in the cramped two-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights. The room her boys shared barely fit their bunk bed, dresser, and toy box. She and the boys used the dining room table for eating meals, designing greeting cards, and completing homework.

Their entire world—a world Elizabeth had worked so hard to give them—existed in this fifteen hundred square feet space. Her boys didn’t have much, but they were happy. Safe. Secure.

And now she would have to blow that apart. To stay here, wait for the inevitable meant her boys would be left without a family or a parent to care for them. They would never have any answers.

And they might even somehow carry the same curse that had afflicted her family for generations.

She would have to take them home, back to her family. Back to the life she had fled.

Jake’s father would have to deal with him finally, and Elizabeth would have to come face to face with the horrors she had fled more than seven years earlier.

She had to find a way to break this curse, or barring a miracle, find a way to see her boys taken care of.

It was time to return to Port Charles.

May 26, 2018

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Smoke and Mirrors

The day Elizabeth found the mark on her thumb, she began to make plans. Moving two small boys and their entire world to upstate New York when the school year had barely begun was no small process.

She designed greeting cards and other small print illustrations, a job that could be easily relocated but this could not be the mad dash she’d made when Cameron was one years old, and Jake not yet born.

That day, she packed anything that couldn’t be replaced in the trunk of her battered Volvo, gotten on the highway and simply driven south. She’d lived in a few places over the years, all over southeastern New York state, and had moved into the city only two years earlier to be closer to her agent.

She’d worked any job that would put food on the table for the boys, from waitressing to store clerk—nothing was beneath her. Finding her dream job as an illustrator had been almost an accident—she had applied to a Craig’s List ad to illustrate someone’s self-published novel.

That job had led to others and had quickly become her main source of income. She could do that in Port Charles as easily as she did it in the city.

But her boys didn’t want to move—didn’t want to leave their school and friends without a good reason, so she’d told them she wanted a house where they could have their own rooms and a backyard. Maybe even a pool, Jake had slyly suggested.

So, the hunt to find a house she could afford with three bedrooms, a nice backyard—and across town from her old life. She had been able to gleam from Facebook that Anna Devane still lived in the old house on Charles Street where she had raised her daughter Robin and niece Nadine from childhood until college.  Robin and Nadine worked at General Hospital, and from what Elizabeth could see, lived together in an apartment nearby.

Across town, Elizabeth found a nice home in the Queen’s Point neighborhood—a newer residential development, and even better Mercy Hospital was closer than General. Elizabeth could avoid her family until she was ready to face them.

By Halloween, Elizabeth had settled the boys into their home and schools. Cameron was a boisterous kid who made friends easily, Jake a bit quiet and slower to integrate, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Elizabeth couldn’t expect the kids to reconstruct their entire lives in less than a month.

Port Charles had grown in the years since she’d left. Already a mid-sized city, the downtown had grown more congested—there were taller buildings than she remembered—and her development was just one of five or six that had sprung up around the edges of the city.

Maybe…maybe she didn’t have to hurry to talk to her aunt and cousins.

And maybe she could put off looking up her ex-boyfriend and talking to him about what came next about Jake.

More than she was dreading the confrontation with her aunt—Elizabeth really didn’t want to see Jake’s father. She knew that it would bring back all the reasons she’d left—and the anger she still felt that no one in her family had believed her.

She knew from social media that Jason Morgan had married twice since they’d broken up, but both marriages had ended in divorce. His Facebook profile was set to private, and she could only see his business profile, but there had been pictures of Nadine and Robin at his weddings on Nadine’s profile.

He’d married for the first time less than a year after she’d left, just before she’d given birth to Jake and sent him the second of three letters, all of which had been unanswered.

Maybe she’d over reacted about what the mark meant, Elizabeth decided three weeks after they’d moved. She was sitting on her front porch waiting for the boys to return from school. They were going to start decorating for Halloween today, and this was one of Jake’s favorite holidays. He loved carving pumpkins and liked making a lot of their decorations. It would be nice to take them around a neighborhood rather than an apartment building.

Maybe the mark was a warning not to have any more children. Maybe the next child would be a girl, and the curse only applied to girls. She idly smoothed her finger over the pale pink mark.

Or maybe she was just fooling herself. Maybe every day of the last four years since Cameron had turned five had been borrowed time. Every day she waited to talk to Anna or Jason was another day she couldn’t get back.

Maybe her aunt knew what was going on—maybe there was another spell, another charm Elizabeth could cast. She knew now the desperation of the mothers who had gone before her—the devastating prospect of never seeing her children grow up.

She didn’t hear the tow truck come down the street—didn’t even see the truck pull into the driveway next door and a man of average height climb out, his dark blonde hair catching the last of the October sun.

A few houses away, closer to the corner, a yellow school bus pulled up, and Elizabeth got to her feet to go towards the gate.

As she stepped off the porch—as the man in the driveway next to her turned away from the car he was unhooking from his truck—

“Elizabeth?”

The way he said her name hadn’t changed. Not in more than seven years. The hairs on her arms lifted as a chill went down her spine.

She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and turned. “Jason.”

Jason Morgan’s hands fell from the truck, his clipboard at his side. “You—What—” He stopped speaking. Shook his head.

He was almost thirty-five now, Elizabeth remembered. She had just celebrated her twenty-ninth birthday, and Jason was about five years older than she was. She’d known him since she was a teenager—since she had met her mother’s family.

He’d come into her life as the boyfriend of her cousin’s best friend. One of Robin’s boyfriends had been a friend of his, and Elizabeth remembered the four of them at different holidays and parties she’d attended.

And then…one day, when she’d been twenty years old and struggling to support her infant son—she’d gone to work at the same garage where he was a mechanic.

It was ten years later, but Jason hadn’t changed much. He had filled out a bit, maybe—his shoulders a bit broader. He was more muscular; his face had some lines. But his hair was still worn short, clipped into spikes. His eyes still looked—

“I—” Elizabeth began, but the sounds of sneakers pounding against the sidewalk drew her attention as Jake and Cameron ran towards them, their bookbags bouncing against her shoulders.

“Mom! Mom!” Cameron panted. “I did it! I got an A! Now you gotta let me get a new game—”

“Cam—” Elizabeth started, conscious that Jason’s eyes had gone to her sons. At her youngest son with his sunny blond hair, sparkling blue eyes.

Her youngest son with his father’s shy smile and strong facial features.

“Mom, mom, did you get the pumpkins?” Jake demanded. “It’s my turn to pick the one I want first—”

“They’re inside—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “You guys, I want you to meet someone I knew when I was younger.” She put a hand on Jake’s shoulder and turned him to face Jason.

Cameron frowned at her, but then looked at the man. “Oh, yeah, you used to live in Port Charles. I was born here, too. Did you know me?”

“I—” Jason cleared his throat, but no words fell from his lips.

“Jason, these are my sons, Cameron and Jake.” Elizabeth hands shook so she slid them into the pockets of her jeans. “Cam—he was only a year old when I moved—and Jake—”

“I’m seven,” Jake said. “I’m born in May.” He tilted his head up. “Where was I born?”

“Schenectady,” Elizabeth murmured. “Boys, this is Jason Morgan.”

“Oh, okay. Mom, can I order the game?” Cameron asked, having lost interest. “I knew I would ace the test, so I put it in my Amazon shopping cart this morning. Can I? Can I? You promised—”

“Yeah, yeah.” Elizabeth pressed a hand to her temple. “Take your brother with you. Jake, you can pick out your pumpkin, but don’t—”

“I know, I know. Don’t touch anything.” Jake flashed her a grin and then a shyer smile at Jason who continued to stare at him.  “Nice to meet you. Bye!”

Both boys dashed inside, leaving Elizabet alone in her front yard with Jason.

“He—” Jason looked towards the house. “He’s seven. Born in May. You—you moved in November—before—”

Elizabeth huffed. “I wrote you when he was born, Jason. Don’t pretend you didn’t know exactly how old he is. This isn’t how I wanted—”

Jason held up a hand and she fell silent. “What do you mean…you wrote me?”

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “I wrote you three times. When I was six months pregnant. When Jake was born. And then when he turned a year old. I never bothered again.”

“How did you—” Jason hesitated, a shadow settling across his features. “How did you know he was mine? I mean…I can see it—but you wouldn’t have known that yet.”

Her heart twisted, and Elizabeth closed her eyes. She didn’t realize—not until this moment—that there was still a small piece of that had held out hope that she’d been wrong that last day.

That somehow, she’d misread the scene with Jason and Robin—that when Jason had looked at her, stone-faced, and asked for her side of her story—when she had felt the waves of disgust and anger all but drowning her senses—that she’d been wrong.

But he had believed Robin.

“You mean why did I bother writing you because as far as you and everyone else is concerned, I’m a complete whore who slept with my cousin’s boyfriend?” Elizabeth asked coolly.

June 1, 2018

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Smoke and Mirrors

…. like I’m a complete whore…

The words hung between them. She’d thrown them at him like a grenade. There would be no pretending, no sidestepping around the reason they’d broken up almost a decade earlier.

Jason had never come to terms with that final day—those final moments. Elizabeth had been in his apartment for less than five minutes, her eyes dark with sadness, worry, and something else he’d never been able to understand. She’d looked at him, standing there with her cousin, Robin, and, and he’d asked her what was going on. She hadn’t answered.

She’d just shaken her head, turned, and left. He hadn’t gone after her. That was the last time he had seen her until now, though once or twice, he’d found himself looking for her on social media.

Jason took a deep breath. “That’s not what I meant,” he said, even though…it had been a little bit. If Jake—Christ, he had son! —had been born in May, he’d been conceived in August or September and Elizabeth had cheated on him in early September.

It was a logical question to ask.

He just couldn’t understand why it had been the first one out of his mouth.

So, he tried again. “You said you—you wrote to me.”

“Yes.” Elizabeth folded her arms, lifted her chin. There were no lines on her face, nothing in her physical appearance that belied her age. She looked as she had at the age of twenty-one—her chestnut hair maybe worn a bit shorter than he remembered. Her eyes were still deep blue, shadowed by secrets she’d never revealed to him. She’d always seemed older than her age, and that hadn’t changed.

“I never—I never got any letters. Did you send them to the garage?”

“It was the only address I had,” Elizabeth said tightly. “Are you telling me you never got the letters?”

“Why didn’t you call?” he asked, with a quick shake of his head.

“I did.” Elizabeth didn’t even blink. “The day Jake was born. Your fiancée answered the phone. I told her who I was, and she told me that you had proposed just after you got my first letter. That you were expecting a child together, and I wasn’t going to get any money out of you.”

Courtney. Jason exhaled slowly. “Elizabeth—”

“I still sent another letter, and another when Jake was a year old. But I didn’t call again.” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. “It’s not important anymore—”

“It is, but it’s not—it’s not about you. I’m sorry she did that to you. She was working at the garage and doing a lot of the administrative—” He lifted his hands. “I’m sorry, Elizabeth.”

“It was a long time ago.” Elizabeth looked towards the house. “I came home so you could—because things are different now and I can’t—but I—” She chewed on her bottom lip. Stared at him for a long moment, her eyes intent on his.  He felt a prickling sensation along his spine. “You really didn’t know about him.”

“No. You never told your family about him, did you?” Jason tilted his head. He’d never understood the way her family worked—Anna had raised three of them—Nadine from the age of five, and Elizabeth from fifteen. Nadine had seemed connected to Robin and Anna, but Elizabeth had always been separate.

“I haven’t spoken to them since I left.” Elizabeth slid her hands in her back pockets. “Look, there’s a lot we have to talk about, and I want you to know Jake. That’s why I came back. I just…I wasn’t expecting you outside my house today.”

He glanced down at the clipboard in his hand, trying to gather himself. “I wasn’t expecting—I want to know my son, Elizabeth.” He hesitated. He didn’t know what to say, how to ask for it. “Does he know about me?”

“No,” Elizabeth admitted. “I thought you…had rejected him. And honestly, it hasn’t come up. I’ve tried hard to be enough for them both.” She paused. “He’s quiet. Like you. He takes his time to get to know people, he studies everything for hours. It drives Cameron crazy when they play games, because Cameron has always lived in the moment and Jake wants to think through all the angles before he does anything.”

His throat tightened, and Jason had to look away a moment. He’d never thought of himself as someone who would have a family until he’d met Elizabeth and Cameron. He’d wanted that little boy, and maybe that had been part of the reason Elizabeth—why it had exploded. After Elizabeth, he’d wanted children. Had thought both times he had married it would be his chance—

“There’s a lot we have to talk about,” Elizabeth said gently as if somehow—she could see his thoughts. “There’s…I guess we should talk about what happened back then. Or at least why I left the way I did.”

“Elizabeth—”

“It wasn’t just because of—” Her eyes darkened. “It wasn’t just that. It was other things. Things I never told you.”

“Okay.”

“It just—it can’t be right now. I have to—the boys and I have a routine after school.” Elizabeth bit her lip. “But I guess you having a job next door is the sign I’ve been waiting for. I haven’t talked to my aunt, and I should.” She looked down at her hands—at her thumb for some reason before continuing. “Will you—can I come by the garage tomorrow?”

He didn’t want to walk away. Inside that house was his son. And the little boy he’d wanted to be his own. In front of him stood the first woman he’d ever wanted to marry and build a family with—and Jason wanted to stand here and demand all the answers. To just look at Jake one more time.

But he had a job to finish, and there was something in Elizabeth’s eyes—something that told him that the secrets she had kept during the year they’d dated—the truth of what had happened that last day they’d seen each other—

He wasn’t going to like any of it, and it was going to hurt her to talk about it. And the one thing that had never changed in the nearly eight years since they’d seen one another—he hated when she was sad. He’d never wanted to be the reason for it.

So, Jason nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be around tomorrow. We’ll talk.”

He finished unhooking the truck in the neighboring driveway and left the bill in the mailbox. He watched Elizabeth’s house carefully, hoping he might catch another glimpse of any of the people who lived there, but no one came near the windows or stepped outside.

Jason climbed back into his truck and drove back across town—not to the garage—but to his sister-in-law’s nightclub where she would be preparing to open.

Caroline Jacks had married Jason’s older half-brother right out of high school. The marriage had lasted less than two years, and AJ Quartermaine had moved away from Port Charles. Carly had married three more times in the fifteen years since, but somehow—Carly had remained in his life though Jason was never sure why they were friends or why she was usually the person he turned to.

In her office, Carly had her cell phone in her hand, glaring down at it. “I’m not even dignifying that a response,” she snapped as she waved for Jason to close the door behind him. “There’s no way in hell I’m letting Morgan go to Switzerland over the holiday break just so he can meet your newest floozy.”

“Carly—” the exasperated voice of Carly’s second ex-husband, Sonny Corinthos, was a a familiar. One couldn’t be around the blonde without becoming irritated. “Kate isn’t a floozy—”

“Well, after Amelia, Claire, Ava, and Hannah, what do you expect me to think? You get Morgan for three days at Christmas in the state limits of New York. That’s what the custody order says. You don’t like it, you can take me back to court.” She pressed her finger down on the screen and tossed the phone onto her desk. “Jackass.”

Her eyes brightened. “Hey. What brings you by? You finally taking my advice and looking for the next Mrs. Morgan?” She wrinkled her nose. “I know it’s been a few years since you waded into the dating pool, Jase, but greasy uniforms—”

Jason sighed, shook his head. “That’s—I don’t know why I’m here.” He hesitated. “Do you remember Elizabeth Webber?”

“Oh.” Carly scowled. “Yeah. She’s the reason you crash landed on the Barbie. God, she was annoying. And if it hadn’t been for Princess Purity’s slutty cousin, she never would have been in my life.”

“You know, you complain that Spinelli never uses anyone’s real name,” Jason began, but then stopped. “I told you that I never really…understood what happened with Elizabeth.”

“No, you said that you asked her to move in, the moron flipped out, and screwed her cousin’s boyfriend.” Carly shrugged. “The only favor Dr. Twit ever did for either of us was tell you the truth, and thank God you never dipped your wick in that ink. She wanted it, though, you know. That’s why she ran right over to tell you about—”

Jason just stared at her, and Carly closed her mouth. “Right. So, was there more to the story?”

“I—I don’t know.” Jason paced the length of Carly’s office, crossed to the window that overlooked the parking lot. “Elizabeth never admitted it, you know. She came over, saw Robin—and then just left. She picked Cameron up from her aunt’s, and that was it. No one heard from her.” He stared down at his hands, at the grease that always seemed to be stuck under his nails. “Except apparently, Courtney.”

Carly furrowed her brow. “And? So, you’re doubting whether Robin—see I know her name—was telling the truth? If she was lying, why wouldn’t Elizabeth just say it? And why would she split? Why did—” She hissed. “Did she contact you? Is she here to see her aunt or something?”

“I’m not—” Jason stopped. He was beating around the bush—avoiding the truth. “She called and wrote to tell me she was pregnant. And I saw her today. I saw her sons.”

“Her sons—” Carly pressed her lips together. “And she says she wrote to tell you about the baby? I bet Bimbo Barbie shredded those letters. You saw both kids? Cameron and—”

“Jake.” Jason exhaled slowly. “And before you ask, yeah, I’m convinced he’s mine. I saw him. He looks like me.”

“All right,” Carly said slowly. “And I doubt she’d lie about it now when DNA tests can prove that. Your second wife found that out the hard way.” She scowled as she always did—after all, Jason’s second ex, Sam, had been the reason Carly’s second marriage had broken up. She tilted her head. “What are you going to do? Go to court?”

Jason shook his head. “There’s something going on that I don’t understand. Something that doesn’t make sense. I always knew something was going on with Elizabeth back then—that there were secrets. She was never close with her family even though Anna raised her. I never met her father—she never talked him about him.”

Carly pursed her lips. “I will admit that I almost liked her until she broke your heart and stomped all over it. You think maybe Robin was lying, and there’s another reason Elizabeth walked out?”

“I don’t want that to be true,” Jason admitted. If it was…then Elizabeth had come to him that morning for help, and he’d let her walk away. “Look, Elizabeth is going to be around now. Jake—he’s going to be here. I just want to be sure—”

“That I don’t go into attack mode?” Carly nodded. “Only because I know Robin hates her, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

August 22, 2018

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Smoke and Mirrors

Written in 20 minutes


Elizabeth spent the rest of her evening waiting. She had been so sure that Jason would have called someone in her family—maybe Robin—and that one of them would show up on her doorstep.

But no one ever did, so Elizabeth carved pumpkins with her boys, fed them, and put them to sleep. The next morning, she woke up, got the boys off to school, and tried to decide the next step.

It was clear that for now, Jason was willing to take her lead, and she appreciated that. She’d initally scoffed at his pretense of not knowing Jake—but then something had shimmered in her aura. It had been years since she’d tried to read him and she’d hadn’t been good at it back then, but the basic emotions of disbelief, regret, and happiness had swirled around him so strongly that even she had to accept the truth.

It didn’t change the facts—Jason had been the one person in her life to support her, but at the slightest opportunity he’d proven to be like everyone else. And to make it clear that she’d meant nothing to him, he’d married and knocked up another woman within a year of their breakup.

Should she start with Jason, try to find the words to explain what had happened all those years ago? Or was it better to leave that truth on the shelf because the reason she’d come home meant explaining the secrets she’d kept from him—

She’d never told him she had power, that her family had been cursed, or why exactly she’d had the reputation of being a drunken whore when she’d fallen pregnant with Cameron at the age of twenty.

But maybe she ought to start with her aunt—the woman who had raised her after her father had thrown her out, disgusted by Elizabeth’s behavior and convinced she was deeply disturbed. After all, she’d been talking about seeing auras and being able to heal people—it didn’t matter that she’d shown him by healing a bruise on his arm.

That had only made it worse.

Anna Devane had taken her in, but Elizabeth had already been running wild and beyond help. Empaths were rare in their world, and even rarer in their family line. Unlike Nadine and Robin, whose powers Anna had understood and nurtured, there was no helping Elizabeth.

But starting with her aunt meant that Robin and Nadine would learn she was back. She was less worried about Nadine who hadn’t been around when everything went to hell. She’d always gotten along with her more than Robin.

Robin had resented her almost from the moment they met—she’d wanted to be a doctor and had bitterly resented Elizabeth developing abilities that she wanted.

Maybe Anna had some answers—maybe Elizabeth wasn’t the only one with the mark—and wouldn’t it be nice if she could go to Jason with some explanation of why, after a lifetime of feeling free from the curse, she’d been stricken down?

Her decision made, Elizabeth got into her car and drove across town to Charles Street, one of the oldest residential areas in the city. The house still looked the same—as if it been extracted from one of those 1950s sitcoms. A two story Colonial with white paint and blue shutters, a rose garden lining the front.

Elizabeth stepped out of her car, walked up the path—but before she could even arrive at the door, it opened. Of course—her aunt was a powerful woman with a rare double power. She could not only connect to the dead as a spiritual medium but had the ability of foresight.

“How long have you known I was in Port Charles?” Elizabeth asked as she stood several feet away from the tall willowy woman on her doorstep.

“Only since you pulled up.” Anna lifted one dark brow. “You’ve learned to block very well.”

“I had no choice,” Elizabeth said as she drew closer. “Learning to shut others out was the only way I would survive.” She managed a smile—just a slight lift of her lips. “I bet you’re surprised I made it this far.”

“I’ve been expecting you for several weeks.” Anna stepped back and gestured. “I’ve also been dreading your return.”

That stung and Elizabeth inhaled sharply as she followed Anna down the hallway to the large airy kitchen at the back of the house with a built in breakfast nook. Anna gestured for her to take a seat. “It’s nice to be loved.”

“I spoke badly.” Anna sat across from her. “I apologize. Late last summer, Nadine found a mark on her palm. I had worried—I worried about you, but as the weeks passed and there was no word, I thought perhaps you had escaped the curse.”

“Oh.” Some of the pressure released from her chest. Elizabeth held up her hand. “Well, I always did have the worst luck.”

Anna closed her eyes. “I don’t understand. The curse has always manifested at birth. If you had the mark, you passed the curse. I did not, so Robin didn’t—but the curse has never appeared decades later.” She looked at her niece. “You’ve brought your son? Cameron?”

“I have,” Elizabeth confirmed. “I’ve brought them both.” She paused. “I had another son eight months after I left. Jason ran into Jake yesterday, so I was left with no choice but to come forward.”

“Another boy?” Anna pursed her lips. “Two boys born to the same mother after generations of girls. This makes even less sense.” She tilted her head. “Neither of them have the marks?”

“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “I came to Port Charles for answers, for a miracle, but mostly because I knew that if I were to die, Jake and Cam would have no one. At least…I hope that Jason will take them on. He…liked Cameron once.”

“I would—” Anna offered.

“I wouldn’t allow my children within five hundred feet of this house or your daughter,” Elizabeth told her aunt sharply. “Do you have any answers? Why is this happening?”

“I don’t know,” Anna said. “I know that you and Robin have had your differences—”

Elizabeth rose to her feet. “I have other places to be today. I’ll be in touch.”

August 25, 2018

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Flash Fiction: Smoke and Mirrors

Written in 35 minutes.


Though she had known Jason for several years before they both ended up working at the same place, the garage held bittersweet memories. She’d taken the job while pregnant with Cameron, had gone into labor while working behind the desk, and had very nearly given birth there.

Cameron was her impatient baby who had to do everything as soon as he thought about it, so Elizabeth was unsurprised her first child had actually been born in the hospital parking lot. Jason and one of the other workers had driven her to the hospital, Max Giambetti driving like a lunatic while Jason was holding her hand in the back. The startled thrill when she’d given birth to a son. She’d never even bothered with a gender report from her doctor—Devane women had girls.

And then she and Jason had started to flirt while working together, gradually building themselves up to a date. And then the best year of her life. Elizabeth had really thought it was her turn to be happy.

Until Jason had brought the garage and suggested they move into the rooms above. Together. As a family.

She still hadn’t told him all her deep, dark secrets and Jason was talking about a future? Elizabeth had freaked out, split, and gone to a party with her cousin.

The one time she had tried to bond with her hostile family member and it had shattered her life.

With the passage of time and the maturity one gathered parenting two rambunctious boys, Elizabeth could see now that she’d missed the signals—that Jason had always clearly intended a future for them, and for him, moving into together had likely been a compromise. He probably would have rather proposed and this had been a middle ground.

She pulled into the parking lot and bit her lip. She could do this. She needed to do this. Jason had to have all the facts if Elizabeth expected him to take on Jake—and possibly Cameron—if the worst happened. She hoped Jason would keep her boys together. He’d loved Cameron once.

And now that she knew he hadn’t rejected Jake at all—it seemed like less of a far-fetched fantasy.

She got out of her car and walked up the sidewalk to the concrete building, and pulled open the door.

The interior looked the same as it had the day she’d fled almost eight years earlier, down to the dingy desk in front of the manager’s office. There was a larger computer screen now, and a young man with lanky brown hair tucked under a backwards black ball cap, and eyes that seemed to bulge slightly.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh!” He jumped, startled. “Oh. Profound apologies, ma’am. I was—” They both looked at the computer screen where he’d clearly been playing a video game. “I was multi-tasking. Can I help you? Interest you in an oil change?”

“No. I was wondering if Jason Morgan was around—he said—”

“You must be Elizabeth.” He stood with a flourish and bowed. “Greetings. I am Damien Spinelli, Jackal of Cyberspace and Stone Cold is my Yoda. Everyone calls me Spinelli.”

Elizabeth furrowed her brow. “Stone Cold—is that—is that Jason?”

“But of course. He said to bring you right back as soon as you arrived.” Spinelli gestured for her to come behind the desk and rushed in front of her to push open the door to the office. “Stone Cold, your VIP guest hsa arrived—”

She saw Jason wince from behind the desk. “Spinelli—”

“I have brought her back forthwith just as instructed—”

Jason pushed himself to his feet, crossed the room, took Spinelli by the shoulder and gently directed him back out. “Thank you. Go.” He closed the door and shook his head. “Sorry. He…gets carried away.”

“He seems nice.” Elizabeth bit her lip, gripped the strap of her purse at her shoulder. “So. Hey.”

“Hey.” He cleared his throat, dragged his hand through hair, then gestured at the rickety wooden chair in front of his desk. “Um, do you want to sit—”

“You should probably be the one sitting,” Elizabeth admitted. She frowned down at the chair. “Is that the same chair that’s been here since Pete owned this place?”

“Yeah, I didn’t see the point—” Jason cleared his throat again. “It’s fine. I don’t get a lot of visitors.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth reached into her purse—really a tote bag—and drew out a thin photo album. “I, um, thought you might want—I keep an album of the boys. Every year, I add another page with the important—I just—”

Jason took it, his fingers gripping the bright blue fabric tightly. “Yeah. Yeah. We should talk about—”

“There’s a lot I have to talk to you about before we get to—” Elizabeth sat down and Jason returned to his desk. “I’m not sure where to start. You know…there are things I never told you. Why I came to live with Anna, why I was…” She wiggled her fingers. “Insane before I got pregnant.”

“Elizabeth—”

“But I don’t know—” Elizabeth bit her lip. “And maybe I should start there because it’s kind of why it all went off the rails. I just…” She laughed weakly. “Because it doesn’t even start when I was fifteen.”

“Elizabeth.” Jason met her eyes. “I just want you to talk to me. Wherever you start is fine.”

“Okay.” Elizabeth hesitated, thinking about it for a minute. “You know that my mother died when I was born, and that my father didn’t really like my aunt. I grew up on the other side of Port Charles. I didn’t know there were reasons Anna and my dad didn’t talk. Until I was twelve, and I tried to kill myself.”

Jason swallowed hard. “At… twelve.”

“Yeah, I…a few months before I turned twelve, things started…to change. I started to think I was insane. Because I could…I could see colors around people.” Elizabeth’s eyes darted away. “And I thought I could see what people were feeling. Not their thoughts, but their feelings. I knew when my dad was angry, because the world around him just vibrated red—”

“Are—” Jason swallowed. “You saw colors and emotions.” He was looking at her when she dared to meet his eyes again. “Okay.”

“And my dad thought I was crazy. He started sending me to doctors, and they kept giving me these medications, and it made it worse because I could see that they thought I was crazy, and it was getting worse anyway, because I started to see the colors and emotions everywhere, and they were screaming at me all the time—I was having nightmares—” Elizabeth squeezed her eyes shut. “So I took a bunch of the medications.”

“Jesus—”

“My dad called my aunt, and it turns out Dad knew I wasn’t crazy.” Her voice faltered. “Because he knew about my mom. My mom, my aunts—every female in my family for generations—and probably some of the men, but I’m the first one to have boys in like sixty years, so it’s harder to be sure—”

“Anna has…she can see emotions, too?” Jason said hesitantly. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. I don’t mean to sound—I’m just…I’m trying to process…”

“No, we all have abilities, but they manifest in different ways.” She licked her lips. “Apparently, I’m pretty rare. I’m an empath. And…I can do some healing.”

“Healing,” Jason repeated.

“Yeah…” Elizabeth got to her feet and rounded the desk. She held out her hand and he hesitantly stood, giving her his hand. She ran her fingertips over the calluses of his fingers and found what she was looking for. A cut. She concentrated, pressed the tip of her index finger to it, and….

It was gone.

Jason stared down at his hand and nodded. “Okay. All right. So you—you’re…” He squinted at her, trying to figure out what to say next.

“We don’t really like the term witch, but it’s okay if you want to use it. Um, so Anna came to see me in the hospital, and for three years, she tried to convince my father to let me live with her. He finally agreed when I was fifteen. It didn’t matter. Anna didn’t know how to help me. Empaths are rare, like I said. We have to figure out how to block our powers, and I just—I couldn’t.”

“So—”

“I tried to drown them out. Anyway I could. And drinking helped better than anything else.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “And, yeah, I slept around. Because sometimes that helped. Anna thought I was going nowhere. She threatened to throw me out a lot, and then she finally did. And Robin hated me because I could heal people—”

“Hey—” He tightened his hand around hers, letting the other drift through her hair. “You don’t have to tell me all of this—”

“I do, because it’s all part of it. I got pregnant and I was kind of terrified. I stopped everything, and I started trying to figure out how to do this on my own. I cleaned up my life, but no one believed I could. Until you.” She looked at him, tears sliding down her cheeks. “You believed in me.”

“Then—” He hesitated. “Why did you leave that day—Why—”

“Because it was too much. I went to that stupid party, and—” Elizabeth tried to pull her hand back. “And I was drinking. Robin’s boyfriend—he gave me a drink. A—and the next thing I rememeber…I was laying on my back, and he was on top of me—”

Her voice broke and she turned. “When it was over, he laughed at me, and poured more of his drink on me. He said to go ahead and tell Robin. No one would ever believe me because she made sure everyone knew I was a whore.”

“Elizabeth—” Jason’s voice was raspy, strained. “Elizabeth—”

“I thought—I thought Robin can see things. That’s her power. She can see truth. I knew she’d have to believe me, even if she hated me.” She pressed her hands to her face. “So I tried to put myself together. I tried to find her, but he was already there. And she already—she was already crying and screaming at him. He told her I had seduced him. That it had been my idea, and she believed him. And when she looked at me, I could—I knew she was too hurt, too angry to let the truth—she couldn’t see.”

He put an hand on her shoulder gently, turned her back to face him. “So when you came to see me—”

“Our powers—they’re not always reliable, you know.” Elizabeth inhaled a sharp breath. “Our own emotions—they can warp what we see. I—I didn’t know that then. So when I got to your place, Robin was already there. And she was already telling her what she thought was true—and I could see you—and I don’t know if it was just her overlapping onto you or just me seeing what I thought—” She bit her lip. “So I fled. I wanted to go to tell my aunt. I thought—I thought she’d help me figure it out but that was—”

She was sobbing now, her breath hitching. “But Anna had Cameron and she told me she wouldn’t give him back to me. That I was going to ruin him like I ruined myself and she wouldn’t let it happen—I managed to get him out of the house—and so I ran. I ran from this place.”

Jason’s breath was shaky as he exhaled, his eyes rimmed with red. “I don’t—I don’t know what to say to you. To know you were going through that—and then felt like I had rejected not just you but our son—” He cupped her cheek, his thumb brushing away some of her tears. “Why would you ever come back to this place?”

“Because you’re all the family my boys have,” Elizabeth managed. “And here’s a good change that a stupid family curse that we thought was broken—that I might die.”