Had she not been so upset, she probably would have noticed the look of abject terror on his face. Ronan fought to keep his composure as he gently wrapped her in his arms. “Hey, just relax. It’s alright. It’s all going to be alright. Just tell me what happened.”
Phyllis leaned back, blinking as she looked up at him. “I don’t know,” she managed. “I was just waiting in the park for the agent.” She paused. “I told about the agent right?” She doubted everything about herself in that moment. Nothing seemed to make sense.
“Yeah,” he whispered, trying his best to calm her. He rested his hand on hers as she slowly began to still. “You did. You said you were meeting with her to try and find a place in Genoa City. Did you find anything?”
She shook her head, her mind drifting back to the park. “No…she…she…wasn’t there. The sitter came and took Grace over to the pond to see the ducks.” She smiled. “Grace loves the ducks.”
Ronan sighed. “Yeah. I know she does. Maybe we can take her back there this weekend?”
He hated to ask more questions, hated bringing up something that caused her so much distress, but whatever had happened in the park today had clearly been enough to put her in this state. It had caused her to leave Grace with a sitter for the night and worse, it had caused her question her sanity. “Phyllis?” His voice was hesitant as he looked at her, his hand softly brushing her cheek, “You said you thought you saw Billy?”
Tears immediately rushed into her eyes, cascading down her cheeks. “I would have bet my life on it, Ronan. It looked so much like him.”
It was the cry in her voice that killed him, the desperation and the longing that made him feel far worse than he ever thought possible. “What happened?” He was certain he didn’t want to know the answer, but even more sure he had to.
She looked away, clearly embarrassed. “I chased after him,” she said softly, glancing up for a moment before looking away again. “I just…I thought it was him. I really did. I mean, in my head I knew…or at least now I know it couldn’t be because he’s…..he’s…” She couldn’t bring herself to say the word. Somehow saying it made it more real and it just felt wrong.
Ronan shook his head. “So you chased him?”
“Yeah…and he took off. I’m sure he thought I was insane and he was just trying to get the hell out of dodge. It’s just….” She sighed, looking up at him with the eyes that still broke his heart. “I don’t’ know…it just seemed so real. It wasn’t even that I thought it looked like him…in that moment, I thought it was Billy and I had to get to him…as if somehow if I’d been able to catch him, he wouldn’t be gone.” She looked up, her eyes screaming with a desperation he hadn’t seen there before. “I’m telling you, I think I might really be losing it.”
He cupped her face in his hands. “The last thing you are is crazy. Do you hear me? You’re hurting. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to break down. Everyone has a moment like this where they don’t want to accept it…where they’d do anything to believe that the horrible thing isn’t true. You just want him back so much…that’s all. Your heart is just broken and it’s trying to find a way to feel something besides that emptiness….”
His fingers danced gently against her face, carefully wiping away the tears. She closed her eyes, his words resonating within her soul. There was a truth there—an honesty. Ronan cared about her. He always had and now he wanted to be here, to help her, to heal her. She took a breath, lifting her eyes to meet his as she felt his lips softly brush hers. He was hesitant, tentative as if he was waiting for the moment that she’d pull away and tell him she couldn’t do this. She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him tighter against her, kissing him—really kissing him and then, finally, pulling back.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, as if almost habit.
“Just wait here,” she whispered, a small smile on her face. “I just need to go take care of something.”
Ronan watched as she walked slowly from the room, glancing over her shoulder and shooting a smile at him before she stepped out. He quickly pulled out his phone, pressing the buttons he’d come accustomed to.
“Hey Ashley,” he said softly, glancing back towards the door to make sure Phyllis didn’t interrupt. “Billy—can I uh speak to…” His eyes closed as he heard the words he was most afraid of. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Yeah, I thought maybe he was.” He took a deep breath. “Listen, I uh..I don’t have his personal cell number, so can you get in touch with him and give him my number. Ask him to give me a call, please. Tell him it’s urgent.” He waited. “Yeah, thanks.”
He shoved the phone back in pocket, his mind racing with possibilities. There was no way to make this better. How did he tell her this? How could he make her understand?
“Well,” she said softly, “That’s a pretty serious expression for what I have planned.”
Ronan looked up quickly, his heart beating rapidly as he saw Phyllis standing in front of him, a silk robe tied around her slight frame.
The breath left him quickly and he stared silently for a moment.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen you at a loss for words,” she whispered, stepping closer to him as she sat down on the bed next to him. Her hands rested on his shoulder as she looked at him.
“I…” he began. “You’re beautiful and I would love nothing more than to…”
He felt her tense as she leaned back, her eyes widening a bit.
“Phyllis,” he began.
“No,” she said quickly, the look in her eyes a mix of shock and hurt. “I thought this was what you wanted.”
“It is,” he breathed. “God, it is, but I can’t do this with you…not when…”
She stood in front of him, tears still shimmering in her eyes, her arms crossed. “Not when what?! I’m sorry if I’m not as over Billy as you’d like me to be, Ronan, but I can’t promise you I’m ever going to be in a place where I don’t ever think about him. I’m trying, damn it! I’m trying, but I still feel a connection to him. I know they say you have to move on, but that’s hard when you still feel like someone is a part of you and I just…” The tears streamed down her face again and she huffed as she turned away from him. “I don’t expect you to understand this.”
“Phyllis,” he whispered, “That’s what I’m trying to tell you.” He placed his hands on her shoulder, gently turning her around to face him. “I’m trying to tell you that there’s a reason you feel that way. You thought you saw Billy today because you did.”
She blinked, her entire body suddenly feeling numb. She reached for him, and allowed him to move her over to the chair. “What did you say?” she asked, looking up at him.
“I know…I know how it must sound, but you have to listen to me. You saw Billy today. Not someone you thought was Billy, not someone who looked like Billy, but Billy.”
“No.” She shook her head violently, running her hands over her face. “No. Billy is dead. He’s dead. He died. He’s gone.” She felt his hands on her face as he forced her to look at him.
“No he’s not,” he said quietly. “He was in a car accident where he lost all his identification. He was found a few days later in an isolated area and taken to a local hospital. He’s been there for nearly a year.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” she muttered, an uneasy calm now taking over, “If he was in a hospital why wouldn’t they call us? Why wouldn’t he call us?”
“He had no ID and the accident—he didn’t remember…and he still doesn’t. He doesn’t know who he is.” Ronan took a breath, hating that he had to ruin the miracle of the moment with words like this. “He doesn’t know who you are…who any of his family is. He doesn’t remember anything.” Her sharp intake of breath startled him and he waited for the eventual onslaught of rage.
“Wait…Wait a minute.” She struggled to stand, her hands trembling as she wrung them around and around each other. “How do you know all this? You know all this about him?”
“I know because I’m the one who found him. I went to the hospital. I identified him.”
The look in her eyes was part shock, part anger, part disbelief. “You knew? You knew Billy was alive and you didn’t tell me?”
“Phyllis….I knew a man that looked like Billy and sounded like Billy was alive. I also knew it would break your heart to see him and feel him and know that he felt nothing for you because he remembered nothing about you.”
“That wasn’t your choice to make!” she screamed, tears of rage now pouring from her eyes as she struggled for breath. “How dare you!” She struck out at him in anger and he allowed her to pound at his chest for several minutes before he gently grabbed her wrists.
“Please stop,” he pleaded. “Phyllis…Phyllis, please.” She thrashed against him for several minutes before finally collapsing into the chair out of sheer exhaustion. When she finally looked up at him, her eyes were desperate again.
“How long have you known?”
“Not that long,” he sighed, “A couple weeks.”
She closed her eyes, shaking her head in complete shock.
Ronan knelt down in front of her. “Listen, I’m not asking you to forgive me,” he whispered, “but I still want to help you…whatever you believe about me, please believe that I genuinely want to make things better for you and for Grace. Billy is in Genoa City and I can help you find him. I can bring him here. Will you let me do that?”
Phyllis looked up at him, slowly standing to her feet. “After what you did,” she said calmly, “I’d think that’s the least you can do.”