She stared at them again, the different colors and shapes forming an intriguing pile in front of her. Someone really should do something about this, she thought to herself, pondering how similar many looked to the candy she’d given her daughter not so long ago. Though it had been long ago…even if it didn’t feel that way all the time.
Her daughter was now a grown woman. She had her own life, her own job, and her own apartment. She also had her mother living with her. How pathetic was that. Phyllis leaned forward, her fingers slowly gripping each one of the pills and lining them up again. She’d done this many times before. It had become her own version of roulette. If she could come up with one good reason not to take them, they all went back in the bottle, but she couldn’t use the same reason twice.
Tonight she was out of reasons.
It took a moment to identify the sound, his brain still clouded by sleep and leftover scotch. He groaned, sitting up and groping for his phone. The bright light of the screen sent a sharp pain through his eyes and he grimaced as he pressed the phone to his ear.
He waited, at first hearing silence before hearing breathing. He glanced back down at the screen, it’s brightness having faded now. “It’s the middle of the damn night…if this is some kind of prank….”
It was her voice. He’d know it anywhere, but he also knew her well enough to know Theresa’s something wrong—something very wrong.
“Phyllis?” He was completely alert now, every cell within him firing off. “Phyllis, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head, her body beginning to feel impossibly heavy, too heavy too hold up. She slumped down into the couch, her arms curling around the throw pillows. “Nothing,” she whispered. “Nothings wrong. Everything’s the way it should be.”
“Have you been drinking?” He stood at the end of the bed, pacing back and forth, the deep creases in his forehead becoming more pronounced with every word she spoke.
“Just a little…not too much…” It was getting harder to speak now, her body desperately wanting to give in to the warm, inviting promise of sleep.
“How much?” Billy nearly yelled into the phone.
“A glass or two…maybe….I don’t know. I didn’t count. It owes the matter though.” She drew in a breath, stopping for a moment to collect herself as the sudden burst of oxygen flooded her body. “That’s is not the reason why I called you.” She could hear the words, but her brain wasn’t editing…not that it mattered…not that anything did.
“Why did you call me?” He could feel his heart begin to pound as he asked the question. For the first time he felt as if he might truly understand the expression, don’t ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer.
In this case though, he wanted to know, he just wasn’t sure it was an answer he could handle.
“I needed to tell you….” She could feel herself drifting and she was unsure how to pull back, and even more unsure if she wanted to.
“Needed to tell me what, Phyllis? What?”
“Goodbye,” she breathed. She opened her mouth to speak again but watched helplessly as the phone slipped from her hand. His voice could still be heard, screaming her name as the phone lay laying on the floor.
“Damn it,” he screamed, slamming his hand into the wall. He grabbed the closest clothes he could find and threw them on as he barreled down the stairs. Feverishly he dialed 911 on his cell, giving them Summer’s address, hoping against hope that’s where she was. His hands gripped the steering wheel tight as he jerked the car into the road.
Everything slowed. She could hear the slow, methodical ticking of the clock. She could feel her heart, the slow rhythmic thudding pounding in her chest. Even her own breathing seemed slow and relaxed. Her body felt boneless and for once, she didn’t feel weighed down with burdens and worries. She was free. She would simply go to sleep and never wake up…forever lost in a dream. Who wouldn’t want that?
“How is she?” Billy jumped out of the chair as soon as he saw Stitch enter the room.
Stitch frowned. “Billy, I’m sorry…I really can’t say anything.”
Rage welled inside him. His every instinct wanted to scream, to throw a chair, to punch a wall, but acting out wouldn’t help anything or anyone…least of all Phyllis.
He swallowed hard. “I get it,” he managed as calmly as he could, “you’ve got your rules. I’m not asking for specifics…I just want to know if she’s ok?” He saw the hesitation on his face. “Please, man.”
“They pumped her stomach, gave her some charcoal…physically, we think she’s alright.”
Billy nodded, beginning to ask a question, but stopping as he saw Summer rushing up.
“Oh my God…what happened?” Her eyes darted between Stitch and Billy. “Is my Mom okay?”
“We think so,” Stitch said quietly. “We’re going to be monitoring her closely for the next few hours, but..” He stopped, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his pager. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly. “I’ve got an emergency. I’ll be back to speak with you as soon as I can.”
Summer waited for Stitch to leave before turning to Billy. She glared at him. “Pills? My mom took pills?”
“I don’t really know for sure what happened, Summer. All I know is she called me. I could tell by the way she sounded that something wasn’t right, so I called an ambulance. By the time I got there, they were already loading her up. They found several empty bottles near the couch.”
“Jesus,” she hissed. “Well you can just go now. I called a Jack from the car. He’ll be here soon and I think you’ve done quite enough.”
Billy stared at her in disbelief. “What do you mean by that?”
Fire flashed in her eyes as she looked at him. “Isn’t it obvious? The reason my mother is in this mood..in this state…it’s all your fault.”
“My fault? You think this is my fault?”
“You want to lower your voice?” Jack stepped into the room, immediately putting his arm around Summer, and pulling her into a comforting embrace before turning his attention back to Billy. “I know you think the entire world revolves around you, but tonight it might be nice if you thought about someone other than yourself.”
“You’ve got some nerve,” Billy muttered, not directing his words at anyone specific, happy to allow both of them to believe they were the intended targets, when in truth, they both were.
“Honestly, Billy, control yourself,” Jack said, condescension dripping from his words. “We’ve all heard it from you time and time again. This isn’t the time or the place.” Jack turned, his arm still around Summer.
Billy’s hand gripped his arm suddenly and he turned to face him, his eyes staring st his brother’s hand. “What the hell do you think…”
“Shut up.” His voice was calm, the unmitigated rage now giving way to justifiable indignation. “This may not be the time or the place to have this conversation, but it is what it is. This has been coming for a long time. I’ve sat back and kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to cause any more pain. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out she got hurt anyway, but it wasn’t just about me.”
“How many nights have you spent with your mother since she moved in Summer?”
Summer stared back at him. “I don’t have to answer to you,” she spat.
Billy nodded. “No, you don’t and thanks to that answer, you don’t need to. Your mother needed you. She was hurting. She was alone. And where were you?” He could see her mouth pursing, her eyes flashing, her brain churning up excuses. “Don’t answer that,” he said quietly, “because I’ve got another question….Where was your Mom…when Austin died? When Luca left?”
He let the words hang for a moment, not needing to say anything else. Her face showed the impact. Turning to Jack, “And you, you’re so damn self righteous. You have this selective memory that automatically removes all your own transgressions, like when you neglected to tell your fiancé you were sleeping with and living with another woman while she was in a coma, how you continued to tell that woman you loved her even after Phyllis came back, how you kept the truth about Marco from her for weeks, how you didn’t support her desire to make the man responsible pay.”
“Not enough…don’t worry, I’m just getting started..lets journey back to the time you slept with my mother who, just happened to be your father’s wife. Any of this ringing a bell, Jack?”
Jack fumed as he stood in front of him. “I never said I was perfect, but none of that has anything to do with this.”
“Oh that’s where you’re wrong. You spend all your time thinking up ways to make Phyllis pay. You constantly throw the fact that you don’t want to be with her in her face. You shove her in a shoebox of an office just to be cruel, you..”
“She wouldn’t be in that office if she hadn’t been hellbent on staying at Jabot which she’s only doing to torture me.”
“Is that honestly what you think?! She’s staying at Jabot and putting up with your shit because she loves you. She still loves you. It’s always been you. And you know what? That’s what makes me so damn furious about this whole thing. I loved her. I risked everything for her and I’d do it again..even now…even knowing everything I know. I’d do it because I love her, but she never felt that way about me. She never loved me. I was never even in the game.”
“Don’t give me that bullshit. You can’t rewrite history. I know how she felt about you. I heard it from her own lips. She told me she was in love with you. You standing here trying to pretend it was some one sided relationship isn’t going to make me forgive her.”
Jack sighed. “I didn’t come here to get into all this tonight. I don’t want to be married to her. I don’t want to be with her, but I do care about what happens to her. I just want to make sure she’s ok.” He glanced over at Summer who was still silent considering Billy’s words. “Come on,” he said softly, “why don’t you and I go grab some coffee?”
Billy watched as they both left the room, his head still spinning as he considered Jack’s words. There would be no reason for him to lie, no possible upside in this for him. If Phyllis had told Jack the truth that had to mean what she told him had been a lie. He walked slowly over to the chair, lowering his body into it.
Rubbing his face with his hands, he exhaled, his voice echoing through the nearly empty waiting area, “Now what?”