She reached out, her hand trembling as she brushed her fingertips across the stubble that always adorned his face. She’d expected this to be awkward, stilted, but it wasn’t. Ronan had always been someone with whom she’d felt comfortable. He’d always accepted her, been exhilarated by her and somehow there was a freedom in that. The same kind of freedom she’d found with….
Her hand suddenly dropped from his face, the thought of Billy sobering the mood quickly.
“What?” Ronan said, his heart beating faster in his chest. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s nothing. I’m sorry.” Her face flushed with embarrassment as she stood up and took a few steps away from him. She walked across the room, filling her eyes burn. Do not cry, she ordered herself as she felt the first tears begin to escape her tightly closed eyes. She sensed his presence behind her, the warmth of his body signaling his proximity before he made any physical contact. His hand rested on her shoulder lightly as she heard the low quake of his voice.
Even his voice…the way he said her name. It did—it reminded her….. She stopped, turning around quickly, drawing in a quick breath as she fanned her eyes in an attempt to dry the tears. “I’m sorry,” she repeated, “I’m being silly and you…you’re here and I’m glad. I’m grateful that you’re here with me.”
Ronan laughed softly, a mix of confusion and relief. “You know if something’s bothering you, you can tell me, right?”
She nodded. “I know. I was just thinking that I’ve said a lot of things and I do that you know….I talk…a lot.”
He smiled. “I like that.”
“Well, sometimes you need to do more than talk. Sometimes it’s not enough to just talk about things. I keep saying that I need to move on, that Billy would want me to move on, that he’d want me to find someone that makes me happy, and now….” She looked at him for a moment, her eyes searching his before speaking again… “I just realized that if all I ever do is talk about it, I’m never actually going to do it, am I?”
“Phyllis, it’s understandable that you’d need time. I mean no one expects you to wake up one morning and be ready to…” He words left him as he felt her body crash into his, her lips pressed tight against his. She wasted no time as her hands traveled to his shirt, her fingers already beginning their work down the buttons.
“Hey,” he managed, pulling back, escaping her kiss just long enough to speak the words, “Wait..Wait…” His hands found hers and wrapped around them, meeting her sigh with one of his own as he stared up at the ceiling for a moment before speaking. “This isn’t…”
Her eyes stared at him in a mix of shock and pain. “You don’t want this? I thought…” She pulled away, turning away from him.
“Wait…Phyllis….Phyllis.” How the hell was he supposed to explain this to her. He had never been one to shy away from sex, but it was more than that now…much more. His hand touched her arm as he gently pulled her back towards him, the pain he saw in her eyes breaking his heart. “Don’t ever think I don’t want you,” he whispered. “I do…God knows, I’d love nothing more than to be with you, but…”
“I don’t understand,” she whispered.
“I don’t think it’s really what you want.”
“So now you’re gonna tell me what I want? You know, you show up here and tell me that you want to help me and I tell you that I want to move on…I tell you that I think Billy would want me to move on, but you’re going to try and tell me that you don’t think I want to move on?”
Ronan sighed, falling down into the chair in the corner. “I know…I know. It doesn’t make sense. I just…I don’t think you’re really ready. I can see it in your eyes when you talk about him. He’s still here…in this house. Hell, Phyllis, he’s in this room.”
“The hell he is!” He ducked as he watched a glass fly across the room, shattering as it hit the brick of the fireplace. “He’s not here!” she screamed, tears now pouring from her eyes. “Don’t you think I wish he was here? Don’t you think I’ve prayed over and over again that he was here, but he’s not and I just wanted to forget that for a minute, damn it! I just wanted to forget this horrible, overwhelming emptiness that eats me up!”
He shook his head, tears welling up in his own eyes as he stepped towards her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry.” He pulled her close to him, closing his eyes as she fell onto his shoulder, her body shaking with sobs. A cry sounded from the monitor and he felt her jerk.
“God,” she whispered, “I woke her.” She looked up at him. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to go get her.”
“Of course,” he whispered, “You go take care of her. I’m just gonna get this cleaned up.”
He watched as she quickly walked from the room. Kneeling, he picked up the larger pieces of glass and placed them in the waste bin. His mind flashed back to the meeting with Billy. Phyllis missed him..so much. She’d give anything to have the man she loved back, but even if she knew the truth…even if he told her exactly where Billy was, she wouldn’t find the man she loved in that bed. Billy Abbott was, for all intents and purposes, dead. The man he’d visited looked like him, sounded like him, but knew nothing of his life, of his loves, of his children. Wouldn’t that be an entirely new loss? He stood up, stepping into the kitchen to retrieve a dust pan. Keeping this from Phyllis seemed wrong but, after seeing the pain she was in, telling her didn’t exactly feel right either.
“Well, Good morning.” Ashley stepped into the room, surprised to see him already up and sitting in the chair. “You’re up awful early, John.”
He smiled at her, bringing a warm cup of coffee to his lips. “Yeah, I guess I am. Sleep isn’t really my thing.”
“Oh really? I can ask the doctor to order something to help you relax if you’d like.” She reached over to grab his chart.
“No. No. That’s alright. It’s actually not really that…it’s just. I’m having some really strange dreams…if you want to call them that.”
Ashley raised her eyebrows. “Dreams?” She sat down on the edge of the bed, looking at him curiously. “What are they about?”
He shook his head. “That’s just it—nothing really. They’re not really like normal dreams. It’s not like I’m doing anything…it’s more like I’m just there…in this space…”
“Do you think they could be some kind of memory?”
“I’m trying really hard not to think that,” he admitted. “I don’t want to get my hopes up, but honestly…yeah, it kind of feels that way.” He laughed as Ashley reached over for the notebook.
“Tell me everything you remember about the dream,” she said excitedly.
“Calm down, there’s not too much to tell…it’s a room, but not like a this..it’s older, nice..and dark..”
Ashley scribbled furiously. “Okay…like a house maybe?”
“Maybe..but not like a normal house. This is like one of those shows you watch on that channel with those British people…what’s it called?”
“Downton Abbey?” Ashley asked.
“Yeah, that’s the one…”
Ashley nodded. “So like a really nice house.”
He nodded… “And there’s a smell, but I can’t place it…I don’t know what it is…it’s strong…like smoke or something and I can hear a sound….I think it’s rain…” He watched as she continued to write.
“What else?” she asked excitedly.
“I think someone was with me,” he said quietly, “but everytime I almost see them or hear the voice, I wake up.”