DISCLAIMER: I don't own General Hospital or All My Children. I'm just borrowing some people.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This takes place before Bianca originally left for Paris and after the PCH fire. I've tweaked some storylines and reintroduced some characters to suit my purposes.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Out of The Ashes
"Why didn't we watch the weather channel before we left Pine Valley?" Bianca asked her sister. The rain fell in heavy sheets around their car.
"Where's the adventure in that?" Kendall responded. The darkness of the night did nothing to hide the smile in her voice.
Adventure, Bianca thought, as lightning briefly illuminated the ragged cliffs to her left, was often seriously overrated. She should have just said, "No, Kendall, let's wait until tomorrow morning," or "No, Kendall I don't feel like I'm going to die if I stay in this town one moment longer." But, it was difficult to say no to Kendall. Just ask Ryan, or Aidan, or Ethan.
"Look, this is what these SUV's are made for, Binks," Kendall stated with the confidence of a BMW engineer. "No worries."
"Yeah, no worries," Bianca repeated weakly as she took a glance at Miranda sleeping comfortably in her car seat. They were only ten minutes away from their new home in Port Charles when a flash of lightning filled the sky with an eerie shade of blue. To her right, Bianca could just make out a person standing on the other side of the railing, which protected the traffic from the ravaging water below. "Omigod, stop the car," Bianca yelled as she turned in her seat to look out the back window.
"What? Why?" asked Kendall.
"I saw someone standing on the cliff. We have to stop." Kendall carefully pulled the vehicle to the side of the road and tried to see what her sister was talking about. As Bianca made a move to get out of the car, Kendall grabbed onto her arm.
"Bianca, I don't think you should go out there."
"Obviously that person is in trouble. They need help." Bianca tried to get out of the car again but Kendall's grip remained tight.
After a moment of silence Kendall decided to go and see what was going on for herself. "You stay in the car with Miranda." That was the voice of no more debate. Bianca new her only two options were to stay in the car and argue with Kendall for the next ten minutes only to have her big sister go anyway or let her go now and not waste time. With a heavy breath, Bianca leaned back into her seat.
Kendall couldn't believe the force with which the rain pelted her bare arms as it dropped from the sky at impossible angles. What she couldn't believe more was the fact that she was now holding what seemed to be a shaky rail as she walked alongside a cliff in high-heeled sandals and a summer dress. Looking, she might add, for a person her sister thought she saw. They were definitely going to have a talk about her predilection for saving the world. If there actually was a person, maybe they didn't want to be saved. Maybe that's why they were hanging off the side of a cliff in a raging storm.
As the thunder became louder and the lightning strikes became more frequent, Kendall began to see the form of a person in the distance. Coming closer she began to see that the person was actually a woman. As Kendall neared, the woman took a step closer to edge. Afraid to startle her into jumping, Kendall wasn't quite sure about what action to take. Once she was close enough to be heard, she said "Hey," and put out a hand to grab the girl if she went any closer to the edge. Thinking simplicity was best she followed up with, "What are you doing out here?"
The woman didn't answer. She continued to stare below her into a blackness that was ready to swallow her alive. "My sister made me stop so that we could see if you were okay," Kendall tried again. "Okay, so obviously you're not okay. What's your name?" The girl responded in a whisper that Kendall could not decipher. She repeated the question.
"Emily. Emily Quatermaine," the girl responded a little louder this time. She then turned to Kendall and gave her a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "Tell Nikolas I'm sorry." With that, Emily Quatermaine jumped off the cliff without a moment of hesitation. Kendall stood there dumbfounded, her heels digging into the soggy ground beneath her feet.
This is bull! A different town and here I am caught up in the same old shit. It was my idea to leave Pine Valley in the first place.
"Hey, Binks, let's make a fresh start," I said.
"Things will be different," I promised.
Now that we're being held in the Port Charles Police Department for questioning about a mysterious death, I'm sure she can see what I meant by different. At least this time we're both innocent. I guess that takes the stress off a little. It would be even better if they stopped asking us the same questions over and over again. But that's one of the cardinal rules of police work. Ask the question until you get the answer you want.
For some reason, the police are having difficulty believing that this Emily Quatermaine jumped off the side of a cliff. For some reason, they think we should have more answers. The only thing I know is that Bianca is probably dead tired and it is way past time for us to leave.
"I don't know why she would jump off the cliff." My patience is beginning to wear and I just want to get out of this place. Kendall left for the bathroom ten minutes ago and I'm beginning to wonder if they just decided she did it and arrested her.
"Miss Montgomery . . ."
Oh, right he's still talking to me. He introduced himself as Ric Lansing, the Port Charles District Attorney. I guess I'm moving up in the city of Port Charles. First it was a uniformed cop, then the police commissioner and now the DA. I take a deep breath and say it again.
"Mr. Lansing, I really don't know what else I can tell you. I didn't even get out of the car."
"Well, I just have a couple more questions for you. Can you--"
"Who the hell are you," Kendall interrupts as she walks up behind him. By the look on her face I can tell her patience is long gone. Even if she won't admit it, she is tired. Her eyes are drawn and tight and her lips are stretched into a straight line that hints at her aggravation.
"You must be Ms. Hart," Lansing says, elevating his charm.
"We're leaving." With that Kendall steps in front of the D.A., picks up Miranda's baby bag and waits for me to catch up and realize that when she said, "We're leaving," she meant right at this moment. Not knowing my sister, the D.A. decides to try again.
"Miss Hart, I'm the District Attorney and I just wanted--"
"Look," Kendall says, not caring who hears her, "we are done here. There won't be any more questions tonight because we are leaving. If that's a problem, arrest us; otherwise, goodnight." With that she begins walking, leaving me to follow. Amazing, our fist night in a new town is spent at the police station getting questioned about a mysterious death.
Here I am looking at this picture of a man I'm supposed to kill tonight. One bullet to the head. No witnesses. No mistakes. Nothing personal. I've never felt anything for these people. Nothing for their lives. Nothing for their families. Their choices in life put them in this moment. The moment where I come and take it all away. But right now I'm looking at this picture and something is different. It's a feeling I can't hold onto as it floats around in my head. Sonny is looking at me silently. Intensely. He stands there waiting for my response.
"I'll take care of it." It's my standard answer.
Sonny just nods his head. In fact, I think he starts nodding before I even speak. It has been my standard answer for the past eight years. He wouldn't expect anything else.
"Good. That should take care of the Rodriguez family. Without him, they won't be able to function."
"Where's Carly?" I haven't seen her all day and it's nearly ten p.m.
"She's having dinner with a friend." Sonny says it as if it were the most normal response in the world.
"Dinner? With a friend?" I stare at him but receive nothing in return. "What friend?" I finally ask.
"Some woman she met."
"And that's all you know?"
"Look. After our last breakup I made a promise to Carly that I would trust her. I can't do that if I know where she is every moment of the day. She said she was with a friend, so she's with a friend."
I guess it's that time in their relationship again. The time when they attempt to act like a normal husband and wife, get sidetracked by betrayal and eventually breakup. Before I can say anything else, my phone rings.
"Hello." It's Lucky. A phone call from him only ever means one thing. "Is Emily okay?"
"No." That's what he says. I never realized two letters could hold so much power. Lucky continues to talk as I flip my phone shut. Sonny's lips are moving, but I can't hear anything except the absolute silence in my head.
"That was Lucky. Emily is dead." He wants to know if I'm sure. Maybe they just haven't found her yet. Maybe they've got it wrong. I'm not sure of anything so I just take a deep breath and turn around to leave. The door opens before I get there and Carly walks in with a huge smile and a doggy bag.
"Hey, Jason, what's up?" I can't answer her. I just keep walking.
This is not happening. It's not. There's no way this is happening. It's a nightmare and in a minute I am going to wake up in my bed, get a glass of water and call Emily.
I keep hearing my name. It's Lucky. He's called me at least three times, but I can't answer him. Now he's walking over to the chair I've been occupying for the last twenty minutes. He kneels in front me.
"Elizabeth." The anguish in his voice forces me to lift my head, open my eyes and see what I fear. This is a nightmare, but I'm awake.
He puts his head on my lap and his hot tears burn a wet hole through my skirt. Jason walks into the station. His face is as hard as I've ever seen it. Unless you know him well, all you'll ever see in his eyes is coldness. Right now I see desperation and pain. Lucky begins to lift his head from my lap.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have..."
"It's okay." Liar. That's what I just became because it's not okay. No part of this is okay.
"How did you find out?" I can still hear the tears in his voice.
"I saw it on the news." This is Sandra Cohen with the latest on the apparent death of Emily Quatermaine. That's all I remember hearing.
"God, I'm so sorry," he whispers. "I tried to call but I just kept getting your voicemail and I had no idea where you were." His tears mix with his guilt.
"It's not your fault," I say. "I was having dinner with a friend."
Of course he would ask. But I can't answer him right now and I don't want to lie again. "Has anyone told Nikolas?" I ask.
Okay, all I have to do is walk through this door and my life is going to change. If I go by past experiences I would think this change would be for the worst, but things are different now. I'm different. This time, I'm going to make it work.
"I'm Gia Campbell. I'm beautiful. I'm the best thing you can do for your company."
Maybe that sounds too rehearsed. Maybe I need to stop procrastinating and just do it. Take a deep breath, turn the doorknob, and walk in.
"Hi, I'm Gia Campbell, the new Face of Deception."
Uh, wow. "Hi." My lips can't seem to get their act together to produce anything more. I blink a few times and try again. "How did you get in here?"
"The front door was open. I'm Gia Campbell."
"So you said." Her pictures really don't do her justice. She's gorgeous and exotic and I need to focus.
"So, I'll take your silence to mean that you're stunned by my beauty and I have the job."
"Umm, sure." Did I just say that out loud? By the look on her face, I can see I've stunned us both. "Umm, what I meant was that . . . that I . . . well the--"
"Bianca," our heads turn to Kendall as she walks through our adjacent office door, "have you seen the reports for our women 18-34 test group?" Kendall places the reports on my desk before raising her head and seeing Gia. "Oh, I'm sorry. Hi."
"Kendall, this is Gia Campbell." The relief in my voice probably reaches out to the sidewalk below.
"I'm the new Face of Deception," Gia says with confidence and a smile that efficiently clears my brain of thought once again.
"You're what?" Kendall's raised eyebrows could have asked the question by themselves.
"Ms. Montgomery just hired me," Gia proclaims with a wink in my direction.
Kendall is looking at me or perhaps studying would be the better word. She's had this effect on enough men to be able to recognize my symptoms. If I could form complete thoughts right now, I would probably be embarrassed.
"Well, Miss Campbell, you certainly look like you're qualified for the job, but I am going to confer with my sister and we'll get back to you." Kendall accepts Gia's resume as she escorts her to the door. As soon as she turns around the upturn of her lips accompanied by the amusement in her eyes alert me as to what is coming.
"Wow, Bianca. Are you okay?" Her smile widens.
"No, really it's a good thing you're sitting down. Are you weak in the knees? Do you need some water?" Now she's laughing.
"I don't know what happened." Okay, I kind of know what happened.
"Seriously, if you're going to go around giving jobs to every pretty woman you meet, we're in big trouble."
The ringing phone saves me from coming up with a response. Kendall picks it up and answers, "Deception, Kendall Hart speaking."
She's been waiting all day to say that, but as she listens to the person on the other end her smile begins to falter. Hanging up the phone, she looks at me and sighs.
"That was the PCPD. They want me to come down to the station."
Why did I think things would be different today? I just knew before finally going to bed this morning that a few hours of sleep would change everything. But, here I am and everything remains the same. The clock refuses to rewind regardless of how many bribes I throw God's way.
I get out of bed, make my way to the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. I still look the same, but something should be different. The bags under my eyes seem an insufficient display for a dead best friend.
I brush my teeth, wash my face and walk to the kitchen. Before I reach the refrigerator, the doorbell rings. There's only one person I want to see right now. I open the door and at the sight of her I fall into her and cry all the tears I didn't shed last night. Her arms wrap around my shoulders as she guides us to the couch. We stumble onto the cushions because I can't let go. She's rubbing my back in small circles and I lose track of the tears and the minutes as they pass.
Eventually, when her shirt is soaked and my eyes are dry, I lift my head off her shoulder and look at her. I want to apologize, but she is the one who says, "I'm sorry." Her right thumb rubs the wetness from my cheeks and I lean into her palm. With the warmth of her hand against my face I want to thank her but the words struggle for freedom. With a small smile she says, "Its okay," and I remember that with her I don't have to say anything at all. She leans back onto the couch and my head gravitates toward my favorite spot. Her heartbeat resonates through my body and I close my eyes.
The last time I was in this place Carly and Laura were partners. I knock on the office door and wait for an answer before letting myself in. "Excuse me, are you Kendall Hart?"
"I'm Jason Morgan." I pause. "Emily was my sister." It's amazing how difficult it is to say her name. Kendall walks toward me and I struggle not to let my pain reach the surface.
"You came to hear about last night."
I'm grateful she doesn't make me ask. I can barely say it in my head much less out loud. I nod and she leads me to a red leather couch in the corner. Ten minutes later the story is finished and the clarity I sought is nowhere in sight. None of this makes any sense.
"What has her fiancé said?"
"His brother called him but he can't get back into town until tonight." We're sitting in silence now and I can't help but get the feeling she sees something I'm trying to hide. "What?" I ask her.
"Holding all that pain inside isn't going to make it better."
"I thought I was hiding it." She tilts her head to the side and gives me a sad smile.
We've been lying here for two hours and it's almost twelve in the afternoon. She couldn't have gotten any sleep last night and I don't want to wake her. My hand strokes her hair and the scent of her apple shampoo greets my nose. I take a deep breath and let it fill my lungs. I'm supposed to meet Sonny for lunch in thirty minutes, but I close my eyes and ignore the clock.
Her head moves against my hand and I open my eyes to find her blue ones gazing at me. Her arms are now on both sides of my body. She moves closer to place a kiss on my lips. After six months I'm still amazed at how soft it feels. Pulling away slightly she whispers, "I love you," and I tingle with the sensation of her breath caressing my lips.
She's kissing me again and this time its softness is too intense. Her lips slowly tug at mine as her tongue traces over them. Just as I think I wouldn't mind being caught here forever, she deepens the kiss.
As her body curves into mine and she gently sucks on my tongue, I know I could never get enough. Her lips move in soft, wet kisses down my neck. My shirt has somehow been opened and the new knowledge of her destination causes my nipples to ache for attention.
I need to feel her skin so I slide my hands into the back of her pajama pants. The bare warmth I find there makes moisture pool from the deepest parts of me. She begins to gently lick and suck on my nipples, alternating between left and right. Her hands have moved further south and are working on unzipping my pants.
My breath catches in my throat as her nail scrapes against my clit. My hips arch and she moans at the intensity of my wetness. Two fingers slide against me. I bring her lips back to mine and kiss all the promises I wish I could make into her mouth. Her fingers slip inside. Her thumb grazes my clit again and my hips find a rhythm I can't control. The slow stroke of her fingers is agonizing.
"Elizabeth, please?" I beg, but instead of going faster she goes deeper. My breath is ragged and tiny quivers begin to run through my body. Every part of me tightens from my toes to my eyelashes. I climax moaning, "Elizabeth," into her mouth.
"What do you think Miranda? Should we give it a try?" I'll take her gurgle to mean yes. Kelly's. That's what the sign on the outside of the restaurant reads. The smell of good food wafting down the block is what made me stop. As I walk in, I am glad that I did because something about it feels familiar. It's the kind of place I would expect to find in a movie. There's a jukebox in the corner, a counter with home-styled pies on display, and groups of people drinking coffee and sharing conversation.
I'm guessing its seat yourself so I park Miranda's stroller next to a table and grab a chair. Just as I am about to call Kendall and ask her to meet me here for dinner, I see Gia Campbell walking down a set of stairs I hadn't noticed. Instead of the short red dress she wore this morning, she's in a pair of tight blue jeans and an orange tank top. My mouth goes a little dry and I hope she doesn't see me. I can't make a fool out of myself twice in one day.
No sooner than the thought leaves my mind does she look straight at me, give me one of the sweetest smiles I know I've ever seen, and walks toward my table. Shit. What am I going to say? Say something smart.
"Umm, hi." I am a disgrace to the Kane genes.
"Hey, who's this?" She looks at Miranda and if it's possible I think her smile gets sweeter. This is bad. At this rate I'm going to be in love with her by the end of the hour.
"This is my daughter, Miranda." How I manage to get those words out is beyond me.
She continues to look at Miranda, then raises her brown eyes to mine and says, "She's beautiful." Of course I have heard this plenty of times before but it sounds different coming from Gia. We look at each other for a few moments until I realize I should probably say something.
"Thanks," I say. "Are you hungry? You should join us for dinner."
"That sounds great." She takes a seat on the other side of me. A waitress comes over to take our orders.
As we wait for our food I decide that I will never be able to have a real conversation with her unless I am completely honest. She's a beautiful woman. I'm sure I'm not the only person to ever have a crush on her. She probably deals with this ever other day. She'll smile, say; "that's sweet, but I'm straight" and then we can get on to the business of her possibly regaining her role as the Face of Deception.
"Look, I'm sorry about the way I acted this morning. You just caught me off guard." That's a good start. Now I just have to spit the rest out. "I think you would be a great choice for the Face of Deception but we are never going to have a chance at a profitable work relationship unless I get this out." Deep breath. "I think you are possibly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and I have a not so small crush on you that I am sure will go away now that it's out in the open and I will be able to speak in more than two word statements which will be good since I am co-CEO of the company which you hope to work for and being able to form complete sentences in your presence can only help us in the long run." Okay, that was about as clear as mud. Thank God I ran out of breath.
She bites the left side of her bottom lip and smiles at me. Suddenly, the Kane genes that have been dormant since I met her decide to make an impromptu appearance by urging me to lean across the table and kiss her right in the middle of this diner.
Tilting her head to the side, Gia finally speaks. "I think you're beautiful too."
Damn. That was unexpected.
The memories from this afternoon are lazily crawling their way through my mind as I lay on the couch with my hands behind my head and a secret smile tickling my lips. Sometimes I'm afraid to be around other people after I've been with Elizabeth. How can they not see her name signed on my skin like a sprawling tattoo?
"Where were you?" The question jolts me out of my dream world and into the cold reality of the penthouse. Sonny is staring down at me with eyes too dark to read.
"What?" I stall for time. Time to collect my thoughts. Time to collect my lies.
"Where were you?" He asks again. I move to a sitting position. "We were supposed to meet for lunch."
"Oh, I'm sorry babe. I got this terrible headache and I came home to take a nap. I completely forgot." He takes a seat next to me and the dimples I first fell in love with make a brief appearance before his lips slide into a thin line. He moves a stray lock of hair behind my ear and his warm palm cups my cheek. His stare makes my heart stumble.
"Why are you lying to me," he whispers. I hesitate and in that moment I know I've given something away but it's too soon to know what.
"What are you talking about?" I try to look genuinely confused.
"I don't know. Why don't you tell me?"
"Sweetie, there's nothing to tell."
I lean forward and place a short kiss on his lips. He captures my face inches from his, holding me in place. The hot breath escaping from his mouth sears my lips and settles as a ball of fear in the pit of my stomach.
"Don't betray me."
So this is the place Bianca fell in love with yesterday. I'm betting her new found love of this restaurant has more to do with a certain chocolate toned model than with the actual food. I take a seat at the counter and try to decide between the apple and blueberry pies.
"Excuse me," someone says from behind me. I turn around and come face to face with the incredibly blue eyes of Jason Morgan. I could say the death of his sister is what's causing his gaze to scan my face with such intensity, but I get the feeling his expression never changes.
Before I can respond to his greeting he says, "I just wanted to thank you for talking to me yesterday."
"You're welcome." He gives a short nod of his head and turns around. "Wait, why don't you have some pie with me?" He turns back, the intensity still there. He takes a moment to seriously consider if he should have pie or not. "It's just pie," I say.
He relents and I think he can see the amusement in my eyes as he responds with what I imagine is supposed to be a smile. The fact that he is here at all is amazing because if our situations were reversed . . . well, I don't even want to think about that. He takes the seat next to me and the waitress pours him a cup of coffee. I go back to my deliberations of apple or blueberry while he sips quietly.
"You should go with the blueberry," he says.
"Definitely," he responds, his almost smile makes another appearance.
Okay, it's just lunch. I can totally do this. It's only take-out at her office. I mean what could possibly happen? Nothing is going to happen. Wait, what if I want something to happen? God, why did I say she was beautiful? For once couldn't I just keep my mouth shut? I would have been perfectly happy to pine away for her in tortured silence.
Obviously, the world is out to get me. That's the only explanation for why when I decide that I like girls more that guys I meet the perfect girl. The perfect girl who actually likes me back! Seriously, who does that happen to? I'm not ready to deal with this yet. I should get, at the very least, one year of unrequited love and/or inappropriate crushes on straight girls to cut my teeth on. It's not fair.
Calm down. I am acting like a crazy person. Deep breath. All I have to do is walk through this door and let whatever happens, happen.
I open the door. Bianca is sitting on the edge of her desk talking on her cell phone. Who knew a business suit could look so cute? The black pinstriped skirt covers just enough leg to still be considered business attire and the pink silk tank makes her skin glow.
She looks up as she disconnects her phone call and I let my eyes travel the length of her body. Once I reach her face I can see the evidence of my appraisal in the red spots on her cheeks.
Okay, maybe I don't need that much of an adjustment period.
I hate this place, but I especially hate it today. Mac Scorpio beckoning all of the people close to Emily down to the station can only mean bad news. The tension in the room is palpable and the hope I see on everyone's face is unbearable. They still think there's a chance they'll say, "We found her. Everything is okay." I can even see it in Jason's eyes and the pain I know he will feel breaks my heart.
I insisted to Sonny that we come down here. "We need to be there for Jason." I told him.
The Quatermaine's are standing by the entrance looking everywhere except at each other. Nikolas, Lucky, and Elizabeth are huddled together at our right while Jason paces the tile between us all. Mac Scorpio finally makes his appearance and the scowl on his face tells me everything I need to know.
"About one hour ago," he begins, "we recovered Emily's body."
"Are you sure?" Jason is the only one strong enough to ask.
Without saying another word Jason walks out of the station, Monica collapses into Alan's arms and Nikolas does not move an inch. He is shutting down right before my eyes. Elizabeth collapses heavily into a chair. Tears streak down her face. I take two steps toward her before I stop and remember that Sonny is standing right next to me. Supposedly, Elizabeth and I hate each other. Why would I go to her instead of following my best friend out the door?
Sonny is staring at me now. His eyes strain to find the answer for a question he hasn't figured out. They track back and forth from me to Elizabeth and my body ripples with tension. I fight to maintain eye contact with him while Elizabeth's need claws at my soul. The weight of a battle I know I can't win finally breaks me and I look in her direction. The need to go to her is excruciating. I want to kneel between her legs, wipe the tears from her eyes and soak her grief into my body. I turn back to Sonny knowing the truth of my soul lay bare in my eyes.
I can't breathe. I thought the night air at the docks would help but it doesn't. There was a moment before Mac spoke in which I just knew he would say it was a mistake and tell us how the police had gotten it all wrong. I hate that moment. I don't understand how my body is still functioning. I don't understand why this pain hasn't crippled me.
"We've got to stop meeting like this," a voice says from behind me. It's Kendall. As soon as she looks at me she can see the pain. Even if I had the strength to hide it I think she would have seen it anyway.
"What's wrong?" Her hand grabs onto my arm as she moves closer.
"They found Emily's body," I choke out. Before now, I never realized you could hurt too much to cry.
She doesn't say anything. There's no, "It will be okay," or "You'll get though this." She just hugs me. After a while, she steps back and pulls me to the bench. We sit there in silence until I can speak.
"I don't understand this." My eyes look up to the sky as if expecting the stars to give an explanation.
"I don't think we're supposed to," she says.
That's the only thing I can believe.
I follow Sonny through the penthouse door. We haven't spoken a word since we left the police station and the silence is causing a sliver of fear to coil through my blood.
"I'm going to bed," he says as we walk further into the living room.
"That's it?" I ask. What if he says yes?
What if he says no?
"What do you want me to say, Carly?" His voice is rough.
"I don't know." I can hear the desperation in my voice but I don't care. He stares at me, contemplating his next move.
"Do you love her?"
All the air leaves my lungs and quickly evacuates the room. I don't want to hurt him but I can't lie anymore.
He turns his head away from me and clenches the muscles in jaw.
"Do you feel better now that you made me ask?"
Yes. No. How can I explain how it feels to finally be able to tell the truth when that truth hurts him so much? In the end I can only stay quiet. Realizing he isn't going to get an answer he walks around me and out the front door.
"What the hell happened in here?" Kendall, with Miranda on her right hip, stands in my doorway scanning my hurricane tossed bedroom.
"I'm trying to find something to wear."
"Bianca, you've been running around in a towel trying to find something to wear for the past two hours."
"I know and nothing looks good," I whine.
Without another word Kendall walks to my closet, pulls out a black dress and throws it to me. Miranda lets out a burst of giggles as it lands in a heap on top of my head.
"Try it on," Kendall orders.
I step behind the shoji screen and slip the satin dress over my body. I gasp as I try to pull the hemline down. "I cannot wear this," I exclaim while stepping out from behind the screen.
"Why not? It looks great."
"Yeah, but I should leave something to the imagination."
"Binks, every time you see Gia you babble like an idiot and stare at her. I'm actually surprised you don't have drool dripping from your mouth."
I sigh because I know it's true.
"Listen, you are Erica Kane's daughter. It's time you show Gia what that means." And with that, Miranda claps her pudgy little hands in agreement and they walk back into the living room.
I've been standing out here for a few minutes wondering why I can't just knock on the door. The worst she can tell me is to go away. I've heard worse than that before so this should be easy.
So I knock. And I wait. And wait. She must not be home. I turn to leave, but the door finally opens to reveal Kendall standing there with an adorable baby girl attached to her hip.
"Hi." For a moment, that's all I can think to say. "I didn't know you had a baby."
"I don't. This is my niece, Miranda."
"Oh." I just stand there looking at her looking at me and wonder why this is so hard.
"Come in," she says with that smile that says she knows exactly what's going on.
"How did you find out where I live?"
"Someone new moving into the lighthouse is big news." She looks at me like she expected a different answer.
"We were just getting ready to watch The Little Mermaid. Are you in?"
"Sure." I try to remember the last time I sat down to watch a movie.
"You pour the soda and I'll make the popcorn."
Oh. My. God.
Bianca is walking towards me and I almost stumble over my tongue as it hits the ground. Her dress is just . . . I mean she looks like . . . and her skin is the most . . .
She finally makes her way to the table and I continue to stare.
"You like?" she asks with a tilt of her head.
"Definitely," I answer as I stand to give her a kiss on the cheek. Her black dress is sleeveless which gives my eyes the perfect opportunity to see that her skin is as creamy as I spent all of last night imagining. The bodice hugs every single curve from her torso to the start of her hips then flairs slightly into a pleated skirt that stops just this side of me demanding we skip dinner altogether. She scoots in from the other side of the booth and I can tell she is enjoying her effect on me.
"This is a really beautiful restaurant," she says while looking around. "It's cozy."
"I'm glad you like it," I smile back. I look around and decide that Carmella's is indeed a perfect date restaurant. The center of the room is filled with different sized square tables, each draped in a white tablecloth and holding a single red rose in a glass vase. Three of the four red walls are lined with semi-circled leather booths just large enough for two. Everyone is speaking quietly and the sounds of a soft male voice singing in Italian can be heard through hidden speakers. I turn my head back toward Bianca and the look she graces me with causes my heart to skip.
"You are beautiful," she whispers gazing directly into my eyes. I tell myself that I am just leaning forward so that I can hear her better, but my body just keeps going. My lips graze hers in a kiss so soft I think I may have imagined it, so I kiss her again. This time her hand comes up to my face and her thumb caresses my cheek. In that moment had anyone asked what the kiss was like I would have sworn to seeing stars and rainbows and butterflies.
"Wow," she says as we slowly pull apart. "I thought the kiss was supposed to come at the end of the date."
"Well, I've never been one for following the rules."
"Good." She looks at me like dessert before dinner sounds like a good idea.
I sit at the counter while Bobbie locks the door behind Kelly's final customer. I've been here for twenty minutes eating a single slice of pecan pie. Now that we are finally alone I have no idea where to start. As Bobbie walks to the other side of the counter and begins wiping it down, I realize that she is not going to make this easy. She makes her way back toward me spraying a bottle of 409 and wiping the counter in small circles. I lift my plate so that she can clean my crumbs and the words just tumble out of my mouth.
"I'm in love with Elizabeth."
She stops mid spray and stares at me, possibly looking for a second head. I place my plate back on the counter. My heart drums so hard that I can almost hear an African tribe chanting to the beat.
"You don't even like Elizabeth."
Shaking her head she puts down the cleaning spray and takes a seat on the stool next to me. "When did this happen?"
"When we were stuck in the elevator together during the hotel fire."
"That was six months ago!" Her normal baby voice picks up a squeak. "You've been having an affair with Elizabeth Webber for the past six months?" Her disbelief and disappointment screech at me.
"Mom, you don't understand," I plead.
"Make me understand."
And there was the challenge. How do I put into words what I feel for Elizabeth and how we got there when I barely understand it myself?
"We were stuck in that elevator for hours thinking we were going to die and she asked me a question."
"It must have been some question."
"We were scared out of our minds and for some reason we were holding hands. She just looked at me and asked 'what did you want to be when you grew up?'
"I know. I thought the smoke must finally be getting to her, but then I looked at her and I could see that she was completely sincere. She looked at me like it was the most important question she had ever asked. And after a few minutes I just started to cry because I couldn't remember the last time someone asked me about my dreams. I couldn't even remember the last time I asked myself."
I stopped talking as Bobbie reached over to wipe tears I didn't know were falling. "And then what?" she asked as she handed me a napkin.
"I told her I wanted to be a psychologist and we laughed because I mean really, look at my life. Then we just talked about everything and I told her the truth. My truth."
I look at my mother, my eyes begging her to understand what I sometimes can't comprehend. She closes her eyes and when she opens them all I see is resignation.
"Does Sonny know?" she asks, squinting slightly as if preparing to decipher my answer
"Is Elizabeth worth ruining your family over?" She walks away before I can answer which is for the best because the shame of my confusion colors my face.
"This is possibly the best date I have ever had," I say as we near the front of Kelly's and I furiously try to think of reasons why I should not go upstairs if the offer presents itself. We have been holding hands since we left the taxi and she pulls me to a stop just before we reach the front door. "So, I guess this is goodnight." She pulls me closer. Only the barest summer breeze separates out bodies.
"It doesn't have to be."
The delicious perfume she is wearing completely intoxicates me and causes concentration to become an extremely difficult task. "Doesn't have to be what?" I manage.
"Goodnight." The last things I see are her eyes closing before our lips find one another. It starts out soft and sweet like the kiss we shared at Carmella's, but quickly turns into something hungrier and I know my increased body temperature has nothing to with the humid August night. A soft moan escapes the back of her throat and the Kane genes, which have been intermittent at best, make a raging appearance.
I slowly push her back against the brick wall of the diner. My teeth pull on her bottom lip. She quickly parts them and I get my first taste of her. I press my body against hers wishing for more contact than our clothes allow. My hands cup her face as her hands slide down my back. We would have stayed like that forever had the need for oxygen not been so persistent.
"Come upstairs with me," Gia says, nearly out of breath as our lips pull apart. Whatever reasons I almost thought up for saying no are long forgotten as the word yes eases its way onto my tongue.
"Oh, I'm sorry," someone interrupts. Gia and I turn our heads to see a woman with red, puffy eyes hesitating just outside of Kelly's front door.
"It's okay," I say as I disentangle myself from Gia's embrace.
"Carly? What's wrong?" Gia asks, still keeping contact by taking hold of my hand.
"Hey, Gia I heard you were back in town." Carly looks from me to Gia with a mixture of wistful sadness that is impossible to ignore. "I'm really sorry to interrupt. I'm . . . I'm just going to head home."
Tears begin to well up in Carly's eyes so I lean in and give Gia a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow. You two should catch up." Gia smiles her thanks as I begin to back up.
"God, I'm so sorry. I've completely ruined your date. Gia and I aren't even friends." Carly pauses realizing what she's said. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. I'm just going to head home."
"You look like you are having a bad night and you need a willing ear, so I am the one who's going to head home. I hope tomorrow is a better day for you," I turn around and start my trek toward a very cold shower.
I can't even bring myself to lie and claim that the reason I am walking into Kelly's is because I feel the need for a good meal. I haven't been able to really eat in two days. Not since Mac told us he found Emily's body. Not since the last time I saw Carly. Seeing her here is unlikely, but since she is not answering her cell phone, it's the only plan I could come up with. I certainly can't just walk up to the penthouse and tell Sonny to let me in.
I take up residence on a familiar stool at the counter. Along with the usual pies there's a display of brownies and the twinge of tears immediately spring to my eyes. I force my brain not to go to that place when we were all so innocent and knew that nothing could break our bond.
"Elizabeth, are you okay?"
I look up to see Bobbie's concerned eyes questioning me.
"Umm, yeah. I'm fine. I just--" I wipe a tear from my cheek and shake my head. The story of a bunch of kids and some brownies just seems too hard to tell so I shrug my shoulders and let the silence fill in the gaps. Bobbie looks like she wants to tell me something but a presence I can feel behind me holds her off.
"Hey, let's go somewhere and talk." Carly's voice whispers into my ear while her hand touches the small of my back. I turn slightly so that I can see her face. "Come on," she says. She takes my hand and pulls me out of the restaurant.
"Well, Ms. Hart, thank you for finally blessing us with your presence."
"You're welcome, Mr. Lansing. What can I do for you?" This police station is just about the last place on earth that I want to be.
"We need you to sign your statement."
"Unless I am going crazy, I am pretty sure I did that already."
"You did, but we lost it."
Wow, I think I have actually found a police department more inept than the Pine Valley PD. At least he has the courtesy to look sheepish.
"So, I take it the case is closed."
"Yes, we found a note from Emily.
"How did I know I would find you here?"
Kendall's question interrupts my thoughts as I stand on the dock staring out at the water. "Maybe I wanted you to find me here." It's not what I meant to say, but it's the truth.
"I just came from the police station." Nothing more needed to be said. Plus, as helpful as Kendall has been to me, I don't know what she could say. I suspect she agrees with me because she just leans in and gives me a hug. I don't want to cry. I have managed not to cry since they found Emily's body, but this hug is my undoing. Silent tears stream down my face and into her auburn curls. Emily's letter has been playing in my head like a broken record on speed for the past three hours. Clarity is so far out of the picture that I doubt I will ever know it again. Slowly my tears begin to fade.
"Maybe you will feel . . ." she wants to say "better" but we both know that is not an option. "You have to talk about it at some point," she starts again. "Why not start with me?"
She takes my hand and leads me to the bench. We sit next to each other with the water hitting the dock as background music. She waits for me to begin.
"She said that almost nothing good had happened to her since she came back from boarding school. She said she woke up to a new disaster or crises every week. She said that she loved Nikolas and her family with every piece of her heart but even that had become shrouded in darkness." Anger and pain and nausea are strangling my voice so I pause and try to swallow. My throat constricts, forcing me to whisper. "She said she didn't have the strength to fight anymore." That is the part that has been killing me.
"Emily was a fighter. She was a survivor. How could she be hurting so much that she lost her will to fight?" I look at Kendall as if she has all the answers.
"Why don't you ask the question you really want the answer to?" She looks me directly in the eyes, daring me to be as honest with myself as I expect others to be with me. After a few loud beats of my heart, the questions I had locked away come to the surface
"Why didn't I see it? How could I have failed her like this?" If my heart were still whole I am certain those questions would force it to break.
"I know what it feels like to love your sister and want to protect her with everything you have. I know what it feels like to realize that you have failed because you couldn't see the signs that seem so obvious in hindsight. Of course she hid her pain, but you should have known better, right? You should have seen through the smoke."
The guilt of my failure eats me from the inside. "I don't think I can forgive myself."
Carly wanted to go to the park but I insisted we go to my apartment. We sit on my couch while the muted sun shines through my deep purple curtained windows and dread slowly burns a ragged hole into my stomach. Too scared to say anything, I wait for her to start. She takes hold of my hand and starts tracing the lifeline on my palm. Long moments stretch out like a lazy cat on its favorite windowsill. Finally, she takes a deep breath and begins what I fear to be the start of the end.
"Elizabeth," she pauses as she brings her gaze up to meet mine, "I can't be with you anymore."
The pain of those words is so much more intense than I could ever have imagined. The breath leaves my lungs and my hands begin to shake. "Do you love me?" I ask, amazed at the strength in my voice.
Disbelief at my question causes Carly's eyes to widen. "You know I do." She's right. I do know. That's why it hurts so much. "But I love Sonny too." With those words comes a searing pain that splits my heart and makes me realize I hate the truth. Most of all, I hate the fact that we promised each other nothing less. I close my eyes to her words and wish for the smallest lie to salve my wound. Her thumbs wipe the tears from my cheeks and my eyes open to see a reflection of my pain. "Most of all I love my kids. I can't do this to them."
What, be happy? That's what I want to ask but instead I lean forward and capture her mouth in a kiss that I hope sears everything I am into her soul. I want to brand her so that she stays or maybe so that when she leaves she won't forget. My tongue and lips feverishly speak my dreams of happily ever after as I push her down onto her back. Our tears mingle and their bittersweet taste seeps into my mouth. My chest begins to burn but whether it is from lack of oxygen or fear is undeterminable. My hand moves to her waistband only for it to be halted on its path. Slowly she pulls her mouth away from mine and we both open our eyes. She maneuvers her way out from underneath me and stands up.
"You deserve so much better than this." Carly's voice cracks as she pushes the words out.
"What I deserve is you, but you won't let me have that." I leave my anger undisguised because I don't have any strength left to be noble. With nothing left to say she turns around and walks out of my door.
One week. Emily has been dead for one week. The days have crept by with painful slowness, taunting me with the remainder of my life without my sister.
Sonny is asking me something, or for something, but I can only see his lips moving. I used to pride myself on living in the now and suddenly it's the last place on earth I want to be. I force my mind to settle in this living room, in this conversation, in this moment where it still hurts when I breathe to deeply.
"Did you notice anything?" Sonny is waiting for my response, but I keep quiet and wait for him to fill in the blanks. "About Elizabeth? There weren't any signs when you two were together."
"No," I respond. Sonny waits for me to say more, but that's all I have. He gives me a look and squints his eyes.
"Look Jason if you want . . ." Sonny is still talking but I stop listening. He's trying to be a good friend but that's usually what him trying to help me is all about . . . him being a good friend.
"I have to go." I'm already halfway out the door when my words stagger back to him.
"We need to have a party." Kendall says excitedly as she bursts into my office. "A huge blowout that will let everyone know Deception is under new management."
"I don't know," I start hesitantly. "Shouldn't we wait until we have a firmer product line?" Sometimes Kendall's ideas get the best of her and she can be a mile ahead of you before you have even heard the start gun.
"Binks trust me. This is going to be brilliant." She comes to a stop in front of my desk, her auburn curls bouncing with energy. "All we need is one amazing product that will symbolize Deception. We hand out free samples to everyone. Samples that are not even on he market yet."
"Okay, that sounds good but it doesn't sound any different from what other companies do," I state.
"We already have a female Face of Deception in Gia. What we need is a male Face of Deception. The party will be a silent auction for every hot guy in Port Charles. At the end of the night the man who has made the most money will be obligated to do one photo-shoot for us." Kendall puts her hands on her hips satisfied with the brilliance of her plan.
"How are you going to get anybody to participate? I don't think there are tons of men in Port Charles harboring secret fantasies of being a male model."
"Simple, we donate all of the proceeds to the Children's Ward at General Hospital." She finally takes a seat. "Who is going to say no to helping the children?" She finishes.
She's right. It is brilliant. We help the hospital. We help our company. I get to see Gia in a hot dress. "I'll get working on the logistics and I'll leave the canvassing of our potential male model to you."
"I promise to be very thorough in my research," Kendall says with a wink.
"Hey, Momma." Bobbie looks surprised to see me. I can't really blame her because I honestly can't remember the last time I was in her brownstone. The boys rush in to give their grandmother huge hugs and then race to the kitchen for the stash of fresh cookies she keeps on the table.
I follow her down the hallway. "I broke it off with Elizabeth." The words fall out of my mouth before I can stop them. Bobbie halts mid-step and turns to face me.
"Good." That's it. That's all she says and I want to scream because she doesn't know that my heart is broken. That it's only been a week and I already think I made a mistake. That watching Michael and Morgan play with their Dad forces me to accept that it doesn't matter what I want for myself. If she knew all of these things then she couldn't possibly spit that one word at me like everything has worked out just fine.
I want to say all of these things, but I don't because maybe I'm a coward who can't go after what she wants. Or maybe I'm a good mother who puts her children first. Or maybe it doesn't really matter what I call myself because I'd still be exactly where I am.
I just follow Bobbie into the kitchen and take a seat while she gets the boys some milk. Morgan has a gooey, chocolaty smile and it's the best thing I've seen all day. Hopefully, it's enough.
I sit on a haphazard pile of clothes in my bedroom. I fling a stupid blue dress through the air and it lands limply on my nightstand. The funeral is tomorrow and everything is wrong. Every dress I own is too bright for a funeral or too dark to celebrate Emily's life. I know it's crazy to think that I can find the perfect dress to say all the things that I should have said, but it's the only thing left to control.
My body craves sleep that my mind refuses to give. Every night that I manage to close my eyes all I see are visions of Carly and Emily. My dreams twist them together into some frightening Picasso painting.
My eyes ache when they open, when they close, when they're just trying not to cry. My voice comes out in raspy patches like it's been years since I've uttered a word. My muscles ache as though I've run a marathon when I've barely been able to get out of bed.
Gram says the pain doesn't last forever but how can I believe her when forever is every minute that passes with me still sitting here on the floor.
"Did you know Emily?" Bianca throws the question out as she pushes her hair behind her ear with one hand and gives Miranda a cracker with the other. The afternoon sunlight is spilling through her kitchen window, painting everything in a warm glow. It's actually kind of homey and it's weird because my stomach isn't queasy thinking about that word.
"I did." I say as Miranda offers me a bite of her cracker. She reaches over as far as possible in her high chair and I meet her halfway. She giggles when I take a tiny bite.
"So how come you didn't go to the funeral?"
I pull back from my little snack and think about how to answer. I settle on the truth and say, "I was kind of bitchy back then, so nobody really liked me."
"Bitchy?" Bianca repeats the word like it tastes funny on her tongue.
"I like to say awesomely bitchy, but others would probably leave out the awesomely part." I try a little smile but I don't think it works.
"I can't picture you as bitchy." She squints her eyes at me, possibly looking for remnants of said bitchiness. "And I'm a Kane so I know from which I speak."
"Yeah, well I had a lot of insecurities back then and everyone pretty much just tolerated me because of Nikolas."
"Nikolas?" I can see the wheels turning as she says his name. "Emily's Nikolas?" She asks as it clicks.
I was wondering when I'd have to tell her about my previous stint in Port Charles. "Yeah, we were engaged," I say. In for a penny . . .
I knock on Jason's door and I'm surprised there aren't any guards to pat me down and see if I'm carrying a gun. He hasn't exactly told me how he makes his money but you can't be in this town for more than twenty-four hours and not know about Sonny Corinthos and his partner.
I guess he's not home so I turn to leave. As I press the down button on the elevator the penthouse door cracks open. I walk back to Jason's door and push it open just wide enough for me to step inside.
Jason sits under a spotlight on a massive pool table with a bottle of Johnnie Walker loosely clutched in his fingers. He takes a swig and strains to focus on me as I walk closer.
"I'm drunk." He states when I stop right in front of him.
"I can see that." I say.
He takes another swallow of the dark liquid. "The funeral was today."
"Monica told me I should celebrate her life, but I can't. It's just," he looks at me with bewildered, tortured eyes. "I just," he hunches his shoulders, searches for the words and trails off in despair.
There's nothing I can say to make this better so I hop up next to him on the pool table and lay my head on his shoulder.
It was Sonny's idea to come to the Quatermaine's after the funeral, but I'm not completely sure it is just for us to pay our respects. He knows Elizabeth is going to be here and he is not above playing games with my heart. It's actually the foundation of our entire relationship so I should be used to it by now.
He leads me into the living room, almost crushing my hand in his. Everyone is sitting or standing in small groups and talking quietly. Alice is replacing the hors d'oeuvres tray. I use every ounce of strength I have not to scan the room for Elizabeth as we make our way over to Alan and Monica.
"I know there is nothing that can be said when you lose a child, but we just wanted to pay our respects," Sonny says to the grieving parents.
"How dare you show your face here," Edward's voice bellows from behind us, "after what you have done to this family? Hell, we'll probably be going to Jason's funeral next."
"Edward, please." Monica can barely lift her eyes to speak to the old man; weariness laces itself between the cracks in her voice. "Thank you, Sonny."
His eyes tint with his own memories of loss as he gives a crisp nod of his head and we turn to leave.
I stand outside of Emily's bedroom door with my hand grasped tightly around the doorknob. I've been this way for the past thirty minutes and it's obvious I'm not ready. I finally let go and see the blood slowly make its way back into my fingers.
A heavy sadness paints every wall in this house and I realize that I don't want to be here anymore; that I can't be here anymore. I jog halfway down the stairs and nearly fall the rest as I see Carly and Sonny make their way to the door. They both look up at me.
My heart thuds slowly in my ears. My breath painfully zigzags through my chest. I force my legs to carry me the rest of the way until I'm close enough to reach out and feel Carly's skin.
"Elizabeth." Sonny speaks first and his voice scratches my ears.
He let's go of Carly's hand and caresses the small of her back. Everything is happening in a sickening slow motion. I raise my eyes to meet Carly's and I never thought I could crave to see someone and hate the sight of them at the same time.
"I'm sorry," Sonny says, cocking his head to the side, drawing out his hesitation, "about Emily."
I try to swallow so that I can say something, anything to make me hurt less, but there's nothing there except a hollowness that is astonishingly deep.
Sonny regains Carly's hand and I watch him pull her out the door again.
To Be Continued
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