“You know, you need to eat something.” Ashley sighed as she stepped into the room. “Billy Abbott,” she bellowed, smiling as he finally glanced over at her.
“Sorry,” he sighed. “I was just involved in all this.”
“So I see.” Ashley sat her bag in the chair by his bed and placed a paper take out bag on the tray by the laptop. “Here,” she grinned, “I smuggled in some outside food for you since they’re going to be springing you later. I figured you might as well get your system used to eating something that actually has a taste.”
Billy laughed. “Thanks.” He pushed the laptop to the side, digging into the bag and pulling out the cardboard container of fries.
“So, you found anything else earth shattering on there?” Ashley laughed as he narrowed his eyes at her.
“Honestly, I’m kind of afraid to keep looking,” he muttered, “Every time I think I’ve found the bottom of the barrel, I find another story to illustrate just how much of a screw up I really am.”
“Pfft. Don’t say that. Come on, if any one of us was to go researching our pasts on the internet, I’m sure we’d all be able to come up with a file of misdeeds we’d rather not remember.”
“Try a file cabinet,” Billy retorted. “I mean the woman that I’m in love with…the woman I have a child with was my brother’s wife when we got together. That’s….” He stopped, not even knowing how to put his thoughts into words.
“Didn’t Ronan say you guys were good together though? So maybe it’s one of those things…one of those meant to be kind of situations?”
Billy rolled his eyes. “You’ve been watching too many movies,” he sighed. “I don’t know..it’s just..” He picked up the photo and looked at it again.
Ashley smiled. “I’ve been watching you,” she said quietly, “every time you look at that picture. It’s like you don’t remember in your head, but maybe your heart does.”
“Ugh,” Billy leaned back against the pillow. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he sighed. “That’s why I have to go back there. I have to see this place. I have to see these people. Maybe if I’m back in the places and I can actually be surrounded by the things and the people I used to know, it’ll all come back.”
“And if it doesn’t?” Ashley asked quietly.
“I don’t know, but I do know I have to try.” He paused. “I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done though…from taking care of me to helping me get this far to talking them into letting me out. And the loan…”
“I checked you out,” she grinned, “You’re a good investment. Your family connections are strong.”
Billy laughed. “Seriously though. Thanks.”
Lauren followed Phyllis back into the living room. “She really is a sweetheart,” she smiled. “I miss when the boys were that age.”
Phyllis nodded. “Yeah, it’s been really good for me to have her around. In the beginning, she was the only thing that kept me going most days.”
“Now, it’s getting a little easier. Some days are better than others of course, but I have more good days than bad I guess.”
Lauren grinned. “Any particular reason?”
“I’m guessing Michael told you.” Phyllis took a seat in the chair as she watched her friend get settled across from her.
“He might have mentioned that you and Ronan were getting close again.” She paused. “So, is it serious?”
“I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I mean, Ronan and I had a good thing for a while and it’s been great to see him, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to jump back into anything serious right now. I’m not sure that I’ve really moved on to that point yet.”
“Well, I mean…if you’re headed back to Chicago, I guess that’ll pretty much answer that question though, won’t it?”
Phyllis stilled, glancing up over her coffee cup.
“Phyllis? You are going back to Chicago, right? I just assumed this was a visit like all the other times.” Her mouth moved into a broad smile, “Are you telling me that you’re thinking about coming back to Genoa City for good?”
“Wait—Wait…” Phyllis held up her hand to stop the impending excitement. “Don’t start shopping for apartments yet. I haven’t decided anything for sure, but yes—I’m thinking about it. It would be good for Grace to be closer to the family and the truth is I miss it here. I thought going away would be easier, that it would help me get over Billy, but I think about him no matter where I am and the only thing the distance has done is keep me away from my friends and family.”
“And Ronan…Does Ronan have any kind of pull in this decision?” Lauren stared at her, searching her eyes for any potential spark.
“He might,” she sighed. “I mean, it would be nice to know that if I stayed here there was someone that I felt connected to in that way…someone I could see myself building a future with..”
“Well, I think that’s wonderful,” Lauren smiled. She stopped as she heard a knock on the door. “Were you expecting someone?”
“No,” Phyllis responded, heading to the door quickly. She stretched a bit, glancing through the peephole and quickly glancing back over her shoulder at Lauren. “It’s Ronan,” she whispered.
“Say no more,” Lauren grinned. “I need to head off to work anyway.”
“Lauren you don’t have to..”
Lauren shook her head, pulling open the door and smiling at them both. “Hello Ronan,” she said cheerfully. “I think there’s some muffins left if you’re hungry.”
“Lauren,” Ronan said with a nod as he looked back towards Phyllis. “I hope I didn’t interrupt anything,” he said softly.
“No, you didn’t. Lauren was just leaving anyway.” Phyllis glanced down at the ground, her actions from earlier still weighing heavily on her mind.
“Can I come in?” Ronan was hesitant, not wanting to be too forceful, but not too keen on having the conversation in the hallway either.
“Oh, of course you can. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” Phyllis stammered, stepping aside and allowing him to walk in.
“About the other night,” they both said in unison.
“You go,” she said with a smile.
“Phyllis,” Ronan began, clearing his throat nervously, “I should have never pushed you the way that I did. You have every right to feel however you feel and for me to suggest that you shouldn’t or to even sound like I’m suggesting you should is completely out of line. I would never want you think that I don’t respect everything you had with Billy because I do and I completely understand that you’re not in a place where….”
“Ronan…Ronan…Ronan..” Phyllis looked at him, a warm smile playing on her face once his eyes met hers. “It’s okay,” she whispered, “You don’t have to apologize. I’m the one who should be apologizing. You were just trying to be honest with me and I overreacted. I’m just really sensitive to a lot of things when it comes to Billy and I shouldn’t have got so upset with you. You were just trying to make things better between us and I understand that. I really do. I want things to be okay with us. I want us to be able to be honest with each other…even if it isn’t always easy or pretty.”
Ronan drew in a deep breath. “I want that too,” he said softly.
The sound of Grace’s soft cry interrupted the moment.
“I’m sorry,” Phyllis said, shaking her head. “I swear it’s like she’s got radar or something. Let me just go get her.” She turned to go before stopping and looking back at him. “Promise you’ll be here when I get back, okay?”
Ronan nodded. “Promise.”
He watched as she walked towards the nursery, his heart pounding in his chest. Guilt welled up inside him as he stood there. He knew how much she missed him, how much it hurt her every day to think he was gone, but wouldn’t it hurt her more to know that he was here physically but gone forever from her in the way that truly mattered. His mind raced as he heard her soft footsteps enter the room.
“It looks like someone didn’t want to miss the action,” she said with a smile.
Ronan looked up to see Grace smiling at him, her tiny hands reaching out towards him.
“She likes you,” Phyllis said with a smile as Grace reached for him again. “Go ahead,” she whispered, “Take her.”
“Oh, I don’t think she…”
“She’s reaching for you,” Phyllis laughed, handing her to him.
Ronan carefully cradled Grace in his arms, her tiny hand carefully touching his face, her fingertips pulling back slightly as she ran over the scruff of his stubble. “Hi there,” he whispered as he stared down at her.
“Looks like you’ve made quite the impression,” Phyllis smiled as she bent down to pick up a few toys. “You know they say babies have great instincts about people.” She looked up at him, her eyes staring into his for a moment. “You think that’s true?”
Ronan swallowed hard as he felt Grace’s hand wrap tight around his finger. “Yeah,” he whispered, “I guess so.”