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Mess I Made

May 4, 2011

Jason sat in the back booth at Jake’s and picked up his beer but didn’t drink from it. He was still trying to figure out what had happened the day before and why. He set the bottle back on the table and wondered what he should do next, if anything. He looked up when he heard the door slam and straightened up when he saw Elizabeth come in. He watched her order and sit on the bar stool furthest from him. It game him an unobstructed view. He could see the fight from earlier had given her a gash on her forehead covered by a butterfly bandage and a large scratch down her right arm. He frowned when he saw Coleman set a whole bottle of tequila and a shot glass down in front of her. She leaned back in her chair and just stared at the bottle. Coleman was now at the other end of the bar and she raised her voice.

“Hey, Coleman. How about a round of drinks for everyone? Might as well celebrate the fact I will probably lose my job. Make that two rounds. I’ll probably end up in jail as well.”

Some of the patrons moved to the bar to get their free drinks. Elizabeth had yet to even pour her first drink. The door slammed shut again as people left and Sonny arrived. He looked around and headed to Jason’s booth after noticing Elizabeth at the bar. Jason’s hand tightened around the bottle when he watched Coleman head back to Elizabeth and pour her a drink while talking.

“I heard about yesterday. What happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you come here to find out?”

Jason looked at Sonny then.

“No, she came here after I did. I don’t even know what to say to her.”

“How about ‘why did you attack my girlfriend?’ It can't be that hard, Jason.”

He ignored Sonny and looked at Elizabeth. The door slammed again and they both saw Steven storm in.

“What were you thinking, Elizabeth?”

“Shut up, Steven.”

She slammed the shot back and gasped as the heat burned her throat. He gawked at her.

"You attacked Sam, Elizabeth. You spent the night in jail.”

“I only spent the night in jail because my bank wasn't open last night. Besides, she’ll get over it.” He just stared at her in shock. “You think I care about her? She should be grateful I found out yesterday and not today.” She poured another shot. The door slammed yet again, but Elizabeth didn’t notice Patrick standing near it. “I hate her.” She looked at her brother then, eyes full of pain and punctuated her words. “I hate her.”

“That’s rather drastic, don’t you think? I’m sorry things didn’t work out with Jason, but that’s no reason to hate her for ending up with him.”

She snorted and muttered.

“Sam got what she wanted, my son dead and Jason back.”

Jason winced.

“Stop being dramatic. She didn’t want Jake dead.”

The anger and sorrow in her eyes made Steven step back.

“You don’t know anything. Sam watched Maureen take my son. She threatened to quit her job if Amelia let us use her show to plead for Jake’s return. She came to my house and,” Her voice cracked. “said we were the same since we had both lost a child. She thought I should be grateful I still had Cameron because she had nothing. She told me to have another baby so I could forget about Jake.” Jason hung his head before looking back up and catching Sonny’s eye. He looked back at Elizabeth. He could practically feel the her pain all the way across the room. He didn't think she even knew that she was crying. “I saw her with Maxie yesterday. She told Maxie she no longer had to worry about Jason feeling guilty about being a father because he wasn’t reminded by Jake. And then she mentioned that the surgery was today. Jake’s birthday, Steven. She spit on his memory by picking this day, my baby’s birthday.”

Steven’s tone was placating.

“I doubt that was on purpose.”

She laughed outright, but it was hollow and brittle.

“Steven, please. Everything that woman does is calculating.”

“I know you’re hurting. I lost him, too—“

She slid off the stool and faced him. She cried out.

“You don’t know anything! You don’t know what it's like to wake up and for a split second forget your world has shattered. You don’t know what it’s like to second guess yourself because you could swear you just heard your child’s voice. You don’t know what it's like to try and explain to your sons that their brother isn’t coming home when you don't understand it yourself.” The tears almost choked her now. “You don't know what it's like to know it's your fault your son is dead.”

He reached out to her.

“Elizabeth—"

“Don’t. You can’t fix this. No one can fix this. I am broken.”

Steven looked around hoping for help. Patrick stepped closer and spoke firmly.  

“Listen to me. You’re not broken.”

“A part of me died, Patrick.”

“I know."

Steven interrupted.

“Do you think Diane will help you?”

She took a few moments to calm herself.

“Jason’s her client and Jason is with…Sam. Maybe she can give me a recommendation, but I know she won’t be allowed to help me.”

“I can help pay for it.”

She chuckled bitterly.

“No, I’ve got money.”

“Do you think Diane will throw the book at you?”

“Depends on who she listens to.”r32;
“You don’t think Jason will agree with Sam?”

She shook her head and her voice was soft.

“He may not want me, but I don’t think he’d go after me.” Jason’s chest tightened and it was hard to breathe. She poured another shot and picked it up. “He's getting the family he wanted.” Her voice was sad. “Cheers.”

She put the glass down when she was done and slid it and the bottle away. She pulled out her wallet and put some cash on the counter. She started to slide her phone out of her pocket, but caught sight of Patrick.

“Will you please take me home?”

He put his arm out motioning to her.

“Come on.”

“No questions, okay?”

He put his arm around her when she reached him. They walked towards the door.

“No questions.”

…………….

The next afternoon Elizabeth received an unexpected request from Jason. She wasn't sure how that would go, but agreed to meet him at her old studio. She went early so she could get her bearings. She hadn’t really been there since Jake was kidnapped. She closed the door and let the memories assail her. She had cleaned up the mess the last time she’d been there so what was left was only dusty. She heard the door open and close behind her.

“We used to be so happy here.” She moved further into the room. “I wish I could pinpoint the one moment in time where it all went wrong, but I think it was more of a gradual thing.”

Jason’s voice was rough.

“What do you mean?”

She turned to face him.

“Do you think it started when I didn’t believe you about Lucky attacking you? Or when I didn’t trust you and take your hand in the park?”r32;
“Elizabeth.”

“Not to mention all the times I went on and on about protecting Lucky and how he needed Jake and acting like you didn’t need your own son.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “Did you call me to talk about what I did? Ask me how I could do such a thing? Ask me why I did it? Ask me what I was thinking?” He was looking at her in that concerned way of his. “Don't look at me like that!”

“Like what?”

She groaned.

“It doesn’t matter. Just tell what you came to tell me and let me be.”

His brow creased in confusion.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I want you to tell me what you wanted to say and then leave."

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want to be angry at you and the longer you stand there the angrier I get. You went back to the woman who watched our son get taken! You went back to the woman who refused to help us find him! You went back to the woman who hired those men to scare us! Your girlfriend barely waited for Jake to be in the ground before she was trying to replace him!”

“That’s not what happened.”

She scoffed.

“Maybe not for you.”

“Elizabeth.”

“I will never forget her coming to my house and telling me I should just have another baby to replace Jake. I will never forget her telling me to move on when she knew exactly where he was, Jason.”

“I’m sorry.”

She looked at him with sad eyes.

“I want you to be happy, but I don’t know if I can tell you that with her so just do me a favor.”

“Name it.”

She looked down at her bracelet and fiddled with it momentarily. She looked back up into his face.

“Never let them feel like they aren’t enough.”

His voice was stunned.

“What?” He recovered. “You were enough.”

“Don’t say that, Jason! I begged and pleaded for you to claim Jake, for us to be a family all that last year we were secretly together, but you never would. It was just too dangerous. Isn’t that what you always said? It wasn’t too dangerous for Robin or Courtney or Sam, but I could barely get you to see me privately. You’re with Sam and the whole world knows and now you’re actively trying to have a baby.” Her composure crumbled. “What does that say about our relationship? What does that say about Jake?”

He hesitated for half a second before wrapping his arms around her. She tried to push him away but he held on. He lowered them to sit on the couch. Her sobs tore him to shreds. Awhile later she had quieted, but he still held her. He finally spoke.

“I am so sorry. I had no idea you viewed our relationship and the end that way. I never meant to make you feel you and Jake weren’t enough.” He pulled back so he could look in her eyes. “I can’t fix how I made you feel, but I can fix other things. Can I call you later or tomorrow?”

She looked at him warily, but nodded. He kissed her forehead before speaking.

“I’ll see you later.”

……………

She stepped off the elevator into the Metro Court dining room and headed to the bar where she saw Diane.

“Diane.” She turned and smiled at Elizabeth. "I was surprised to get your call.”

“One moment.” She flagged down a passing waiter. “Our table, please.”

They followed the waiter to a small table and ordered drinks.

“I apologize for the short notice, but I thought you would want to know.”

“Know what?”

“The assault charge has been dropped. You are a free woman.”

Elizabeth sat back.

“What?”

“Jason assured me Sam would not be pressing charges and he has retained my services for you in case the PCPD files charges anyway.”

“Wow. Thank you. But why?”

“He said he wanted to protect you for once.”

Diane leaned closer and lowered her voice a little.

“And Just between you and me I’d rather have you for a client anyway.”

Elizabeth smiled.

"Thank you for your help, Diane.”

Neither of them noticed Carly come out of the kitchen and head their way until she had stopped at their table.

“Sorry to intrude, but I just had to congratulate you on the shiner you gave Sam, Elizabeth. I’m not a big fan of yours, but anyone who can take down that witch a notch or two earns some respect in my book.”

“Thanks, I think.”

“Enjoy your dinner. I have to get back to getting Jason’s suite ready. He’s staying an indefinite amount of time. Can that please mean there’s trouble in paradise?”

Carly was practically rubbing her hands together in glee as she walked away.

“Interesting. Wouldn’t you say, Elizabeth?” Elizabeth didn’t hear her, though. She was thinking about Jason’s words from earlier about fixing things. She couldn't be positive, but it looked like he was breaking up with Sam and she knew if Sam wasn’t pressing charges it was because Jason wouldn’t let her. “Elizabeth. Are you okay?”

“Oh, I’m fine. Just thinking.”

“Shall we order some dessert?”

Elizabeth smiled.

“Absolutely. Their chocolate torte is amazing.”

……………

Patrick had offered to keep the boys overnight since Elizabeth had gone to meet Diane right before their bedtime so she was coming home to an empty house. When she pulled in the driveway she saw Jason sitting on the swing out front.

“What are you doing here, Jason?”

"Finally making sure you’re safe.”

Her eyebrows raised, but she didn’t comment.

“Come in.”

“Where are the boys?”

“They’re at Patrick’s. Diane called right after dinner. He didn’t want me to have to wake them up when I got home.”

“He’s really changed.”

She laughed.

“Yeah. Who knew he’d take so well to playdates and ponytails?”

He followed her into the kitchen.

“You want to talk about security?”

“What did you have in mind?”

“We have a couple of options. We could get you a security alarm or I could put a few guards on your house all the time.”

“Even when I’m not here?”

“You need to be safe.”

“I don't want anyone stuck with that boring job so let’s get the alarm system.” He nodded. “What’s next?”

“Each of you will have a guard. I know it seems excessive, but it will be easier if and when the threat is higher because the boys will already be familiar with them.”

She nodded slowly.

“Okay.”

He watched the expressions change on her face.

“What?”

“Please don't take this the wrong way, but why?”

“You are enough.”

“Don’t. You don't get to say that to me.”

He sighed.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.”

“I appreciate you getting Sam to back off and the petty side of me can’t help but be happy you left her, but it doesn't fix anything between you and me.”

“I know. I’ve said things to you, but never backed them up with actions. I wanted to be a husband to you and a father to Jake and the boys and the thought of losing you paralyzed me from making that a reality. I’m ashamed to admit it was easier to push you away and pretend you are safe. I’ve been on auto pilot since I left you in the courthouse. I did things because they were easy or expected of me. I’m not proud of that. You told me to never let them feel like they aren’t enough and it cut me off at the knees. When I heard you yesterday I realized what I had done to you and to Jake, how small I had made you feel. If he had lived he would have come to me one day and been appalled at how I treated you and he would have been right. I can never make it right for him, but I can honor his memory by showing you you matter to me.” He cleared his throat.” I’m only asking for your time, maybe go for rides, have you explain your paintings, do things that mean something to us."

She looked uncertain.

“I can try.”

………….

May 4, 2012

She laid the bouquet of flowers down on the freshly cut grass.

“Happy birthday, my sweet boy.” She squatted down in front of the grave marker. She traced his first name with her finger. “I miss you so much. I can’t believe this is your second birthday without you.” She reached out behind her and Jason grasped her hand. He knelt down next to her. “I want you to meet someone. This is Jason. He’s your dad and he loves you just as much as me. I wish you could have known him more, but just know this. We will love you forever.”

Jason helped Elizabeth stand up. He stroked the top of the headstone just once reverently.

“I can’t believe it’s been over a year since he died.”

“You and me both. Some days I still wake up and for a split second I forget.” She looked up at him as she wrapped her right arm through his left. “But it hasn’t all been bad.”

“I hope not.”

She playfully smacked his arm as they walked back to the car.

“It’s been a good year, all things considered.”

“And that has nothing to do with the weekly rides, I’m sure.”

She smacked him again and smiled.

“Brat.” He opened the door for her, but she didn't get in. “I love the rides, but what I love most is you and I are honest with each other again. I love that I don't have to worry about you walking away. I love that you’re a great friend to my boys.”r32;

“Last year I heard you tell Steven I was getting the family I wanted. That's not true, Elizabeth. I had given up the family I wanted. To be here now, with you, there are no words.”

Her mouth tilted up on one side.

“What about first, last, and always?”

His head dipped down. As his mouth met hers she knew…friendship was only the beginning.
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