Love Lost pt 19

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?”

“Yeah…maybe….”

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.”

 

Advertisements

Love Lost pt 18

“I’m sorry.  I don’t have any kind of picture ID,” Billy said with a sigh, “but I’ll pay in cash—in advance,” he offered.  “For the entire week.”  He watched the look on the desk clerk’s face, her suspicious eyes, lighting up a bit at the sight of the cash on the dingy countertop.

“That’s for the whole week upfront?”

“Yeah, the whole week, upfront and the security deposit.”  He glanced around the small front office.  The fact that this place had a security deposit was a bit laughable, but he didn’t have the luxury of being particular.  Not too many hotels in the city would rent to someone with no ID and no valid credit card.

“Alright,” she said gruffly, snatching the money and handing him a key.  “We don’t do the key cards,” she smiled.  “We’re not too fancy around here.”

Billy sighed.  “No problem.  Neither am I.”  He shoved the key into his pocket as he trudged out the door onto the sidewalk.  It was only a few steps to his new front door.  The key slipped into the lock easily and he pushed open the door and leaned his bag against the wall.  “She wasn’t kidding,” he mumbled out loud, “Nothing fancy about this.”  He closed the door, and flipped the lock.  It had been an exhausting day and a long bus ride.  After kicking off his shoes and removing his jacket, he stretched out across the bed.  Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, he pulled out the photo, pulling it down to his chest.  He didn’t know who they were or what they meant to him, but Ashley had been right—they meant something and in a world where nothing seemed to make any connection, something was a hell of a lot.  He closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep.

~

“Hi.”  Ronan stood up, pulling out the chair and waiting for Phyllis to sit before sliding it back under the table.  He leaned in to lightly kiss her cheek before bending down to speak to Grace.  “And good morning to you too,” he smiled, reaching into the stroller and stroking her tiny hand.

“You better watch out,” Phyllis whispered, leaning in towards him and speaking through gritted teeth.

“What?”

“Word’s gonna get out that you’re nothing but a big ol’ softie,” she hissed.  “Pulling out chairs, playing with babies…pretty soon you’ll be drinking light beer and getting facials…”  She grinned mischievously as he took a seat across from her.

“That’s really good to see.”  Ronan  pushed a cup of coffee across to her, his eyes softening as he watched her blink in confusion.

“What is?” she asked.

“That smile….it’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of those real genuine Phyllis smiles.  I’ve missed them.”

“Oh,” She was serious for a moment and he worried he might have said too much.  He nearly sighed aloud in relief as he watched the smile spread across her face again.  “You know what, I’ve missed them too.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like smiling like that and you know what?  You’re the reason why…”

“Me?”  He leaned back, feigning shock.  “What did I do?”

“You did what you always do.  You reminded me of what it’s like to just be…not to be worried about a million things…not to be so serious all the time.  You reminded me that it’s okay to just enjoy life every once in a while…and you’re good with my kid.  That always helps.”

“Well, she happens to be a great kid.  That helps too.”  Ronan glanced down at Grace who worked furiously to pull her foot into her mouth.  He grinned, “And working on being as flexible as her Mama I see….” He stopped.  “I’m sorry..I was joking..I didn’t mean anything by that…”

“Ronan,…Ronan…”  She laughed, reaching across the table and lightly touching his hand.  “It’s alright, honestly.  I’m really enjoying spending time with you and I don’t know where things are going but I’d like to see and if you’re willing to be a little patient.  I mean, I’m not quite ready for that yet, but…”

“I can be patient.  You’re worth waiting for.”  The words came out of his mouth more quickly than he intended and he cleared his throat, feeling his cheeks burn with embarrassment as he brought his coffee cup to his lips to take a sip, “So,” he said, with a deep breath, “What are the two of you up to today?”

Phyllis smiled, appreciating his attempt to lighten the mood.  “Well, actually we need to get going.  We’re going to head to the park and take a walk and I’m meeting a real estate agent there a little later.”

She saw his face fall immediately.

“Oh,” he breathed.  “I didn’t realize you weren’t planning on staying in town.  I just thought earlier when you said…”  He shook his head.  “Never mind.  I mean you certainly don’t own me any explanation..”

“No..No..I’m talking to an agent about trying to find a place here…so that I can stay here permanently.  Initially it was always the plan to go back to Chicago, but I realized that I’ve really missed it here and there’s some things that I’d like to pursue here.”  She let her eyes drift up to find his again and she smiled.

Ronan stood, “Well, in that case, maybe I could walk you out.”

~

“Thanks so much for meeting me here.”  Phyllis smiled as she passed the bag and stroller over to the sitter, “I shouldn’t be very long.”

“No problem.  I’ll just walk her over near the pond.  She likes to see the ducks.”

Phyllis stood, glancing around the crowded park as the sitter pushed Grace over by the pond.  She glanced down at her cell phone. There were no missed calls, so she expected the meeting was still on as planned.  She’d never been very good at waiting.  Forcing a smile, she paced back and forth passed groups of people picnicking and talking, scanning the crowds to look for a familiar face.  The agent had her number. Surely she’d call if she’d arrived and couldn’t find her.

With a frustrated sigh, Phyllis collapsed onto a bench.  This is what she’d always told her children.  If you were lost, stay in one place—that way you’re easier to find.  She moved her head slowly from left to right, scanning each section of the park with precision.  Her eyes fell on a tree in the far corner.  In an instant her heart began to race.  It wasn’t possible.  It couldn’t be.  She stood, her legs already trembling.  Logic and rational thought were quickly overwhelmed by the simple idea of it being true and she bolted across the grass, babbling apologies to people as she pushed them aside.  The closer she got the more certain she was.  He was the same height, the same build.  He had his skin, his hair….

She reached the tree, grabbing onto it and struggling for breath.  Her chest burned as she gasped frantically, her sides ached and she found herself struggling to keep from falling.

“Miss?  Miss?  Are you alright?”  A voice behind her called to her and all she could do was whisper.

“Billy.”

~

He knocked on the door, resisting the urge to kick it down.  He’d barely been able to understand her on the phone, her message was so garbled and almost incoherent.  When he’d finally managed to calm her somewhat, he’d managed to understand that she was in her room and that she needed him to come… ‘now’.  If there was one thing he knew for certain, Phyllis Summers didn’t ask for help.  The fact that she’d called was a sure sign that something was terribly wrong.  “Phyllis?”  he called, leaning in close to the door, desperate to hear something, anything to let him know she was okay.  He breathed a sigh of relief when he heard footsteps.

“Hey,” he whispered, wrapping his arms around her as she nearly collapsed into his arms.  He stepped inside the room, pushing the door closed behind him as he walked her back into the living area and gently sat her down on the bed.  He sat down beside her as he pushed the hair away from her face.  One look at her eyes and he could tell she’d been crying for hours.  “Is Grace alright?” Grace was the only thing he could think of that might put her in such a state.

Phyllis nodded.  “She’s with the sitter,” she said quietly.  “I couldn’t let her see me like this…not like this.”

“Phyllis,” he sighed.  “What’s wrong?  What on earth happened?”

She seemed to calm for a minute, her hands shaking a bit as she clasped his tightly in hers.  “Ronan,” she began, “I need your help.  You’ve always been honest with me and I need you to tell me the truth..no matter what, okay?”

He shook his head, cupping her face in his hands, desperate to help her in any way he could.  “Of course…of course I will.”

“I know you’ve only been around for a little while and you only know what I’ve told you, but you’ve seen me recently and….”  Her voice broke and he watched painfully as she struggled to regain what little composure she had left.  “I need to know…Do you think…Do you think it’s possible that I could be losing my mind?”

“What?”  He stared at her for a moment, stroking her face again, brushing the hair that stuck to her face in the tear stained tracks away.  “Why would you say that?  No…No…You’re not losing your mind.  You’re grieving.  That’s okay.  You’re allowed to be sad.  You’re allowed to have bad days.”

“It’s not a bad day,” she sobbed.  She looked up at him, hesitating, fearful.

“Phyllis,” he breathed, “It’s okay…just tell me.  Whatever it is…just say it.”

“I know how it sounds…ok?  And I know it can’t be true, so I’m not so far gone, right?”  She forced a small smile before the tears came again.  “Oh God, Ronan,” she sobbed, “I swear I saw him today.  I saw Billy.”

 

Love Lost pt 17

“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.”

“And now?”

“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.”

 

Love Lost pt 16

“Well, hi,” Phyllis said, her voice betraying her surprise as she stepped back and allowed Lauren to step into the room.

Lauren smiled.  “The surprise in your voice tells me that I’ve been a pretty crappy friend recently.”  She leaned in to give her a quick hug.  “I’m really sorry I haven’t been around much sweetie.  I’ve just been so busy with work and everything else.”  She pulled away, sighing deeply, “Which is absolutely no excuse for not calling or coming by, but…”

“It’s fine…don’t give it another thought.  I’m just glad to see you this morning.”  She reached out for the coffee and paper bag.  “And you have no idea how much I need this this morning.”

“Rough morning?”

Lauren followed Phyllis into the living area, stopping by the swing and bending down to scoop up Grace.  “I don’t know how anyone could have a bad morning when you get to wake up to this sweet little face.”

“Yeah,” Phyllis smiled, “She’s sweet now…not so sweet at 4am when she refuses to sleep.”  She stroked Grace’s arm as she shook her head slowly.  “No, it’s not that…it’s just…I don’t know…everything really.”

“Sounds like we’ve got a quite a bit of ground to cover,” Lauren smiled, pulling a few muffins from the bag and sitting them down on the table.  “You pick first.”

~

Billy stared at the image on the phone before looking back at Ronan.  “I don’t understand.”

Ronan felt his own heart break as he heard the words.  He could only imagine how Phyllis would feel.  “You don’t recognize that woman at all?”

He looked back down at the picture again, “No..I..I..don’t.  Should I?  Who is she?”  He paused for a minute.  “Wait a minute.  You called me Billy.   Do you know who I am?  Is that my name?”

Ronan took a deep breath.  There was no going back now.  “Yes,” he sighed.  “I know who you are.  Your name is Billy Abbott.  You’re from Genoa City, Wisconsin.  You were injured in a car accident about a year ago and you’ve been missing ever since.”

“Billy Abbott,” he breathed.  It felt like he’d been punched in the gut.  The relief he’d expected to feel when he finally got the answers wasn’t here and in its place was this overwhelming sense of anxiety.  There were so many questions, too many questions, questions he didn’t even know how to put into words.  “The picture?”

“Her name is Phyllis…Phyllis Summers…You loved her…and…the baby that’s your daughter.  Her name’s Grace.”

His heart felt as if would pound out of his chest and he closed his eyes for a moment.  “She’s little,” he finally managed.  “Is she still little like that?”

“Yeah,” Ronan whispered, “That’s from last night.  Phyllis found out she was pregnant after you die…well, after she thought that you…”

“Oh.”  He didn’t know what to say.  He didn’t even know what to feel.  In every dream he’d had about his life, it had never been like this.  He’d always been happy to find out who he was and where he’d come from, but this—this was like an overwhelming wave that he couldn’t get out from under.  He kept fighting for breath, but the water kept coming.  Thoughts hit one after the other and the second he managed a coherent question, another necessary, more pressing inquisition would assault his brain.

“Last night?”  Billy said suddenly, his quick words breaking the silence in the room.  “You said the picture was from last night?”

“Yeah, it was.”

“You were with them…Do they know…about me?”

“No.  I haven’t told her.  I thought about it, but I didn’t.” Ronan watched his face, anticipating anger, but instead he was met with confusion.

“Why?”

Ronan stood up, walking a few steps away from him and turning his back.  It was easier to say if he didn’t have to look at him.  “Because I love her,” he said quietly.  He turned back after a few moments with no response.  Billy simply looked at him, waiting for him to continue.

He sat back down in the chair, his hands brushing hard over his face.  “You have every right to be angry.  I mean, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have no idea about your life and then to know that someone knew everything and kept it from you.  I’d be mad as hell if I were you right now.”  He paused.  “In fact, I’ve gotta say, I’m kind of curious why you’re not.  You’re taking this pretty well.”

Billy shook his head slowly.  “I don’t know.  I guess I figure you didn’t have to tell me now, but you did.  I wouldn’t have known.  You never had to come back here, but you did and that must mean you care about the same people that I did…or do…”

“You and I…we don’t know each other that well,” Ronan began, “but I’ll answer any questions you have, alright? I’ll try to help you however I can, but I just need one thing from you. I know you want to get back to your life, but think about what I said.  You know how it feels to forget, but imagine being forgotten.”  He picked up the phone again, bringing the picture back onto the screen.  “She’s been through hell and she’s just now finally beginning to try and find her life again.  I can be there for her, for both of them…and I’m not saying you can’t.  I’m just saying that right now….”

“Right now you think it would hurt her more than it would help,” Billy said quietly.

“I don’t want to see her hurt anymore.  That’s all.  I swear to you that I’ll help you.  I’ll visit and I’ll answer questions and I’ll keep you updated.  I’ll bring pictures and anything you want.  I just know…”  He paused, trying to figure out the right words…the right way to make him understand.  “Phyllis misses you with everything in her.  You are all she talks about.  She wants you back and I’m not sure if she could handle a person that looks like you and sounds like you but isn’t really you.  Does that make any sense at all?”

“Yeah,” he whispered.  “Yeah, it does.” He was quiet for a moment before adding, “You’ll make sure they’re okay?”

“You have my word.”  Ronan held out his hand, shaking it as Billy took it.  “The hospital has my number.  You can call me anytime.”

“Thank you.”  Billy nodded, watching as Ronan stood and stepped towards the door.  “Ronan,” Billy called, “One more thing.”

Ronan stopped, turning back to look at him.

“Do you think maybe you could send that picture to Ashley—maybe let her print it out for me?  I’d like to have something…just something to look at so I could…I don’t know…”

Ronan nodded, quickly sending the picture to Ashley’s contact.  “Done,” he said with a smile.

Ashley waited until Ronan could no longer be seen before rushing into the room.  “What did he say?” she asked, her eyes wide with anticipation.

Billy pushed himself up in bed.  “Later…Later,” he said quickly, holding his hand up to stop the conversation.  “Right now, I need you tell me the quickest way to get a laptop set up in here.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 15

Ronan glanced down at his watch.  She’d been in there for a while.  He didn’t know much about babies, but he’d always heard they weren’t great sleepers.  Maybe she was having trouble getting Grace back to sleep.  He stepped quietly towards the door, pushing it open just slightly so that he could peer inside.

Phyllis sat in the rocking chair, she and Grace both sleeping.  Grace laid, with her head on Phyllis’ chest, a pink blanket covering her, her tiny hand resting on her mother’s face.  Ronan stood there for a moment, just watching them.  Just moments ago Phyllis had been near fury and now she looked completely content, holding her daughter.  Quietly he pulled his phone from his pocket and quickly snapped a photo.  This seemed like one of those moments you would want to remember and who knows, maybe he could give it to her as a way to apologize for being such an ass earlier.

He smiled as he took one last look at them before backing out of the room.

~

Phyllis walked slowly from the room.  “Ronan?” she called, fully expecting him to be long gone.  She’d been asleep for nearly two hours and they hadn’t exactly left things on the best terms.  Her eyes scanned the empty living area.  “Great,” she muttered, as she walked into the kitchen to turn out the lights.  She stopped, a folded piece of paper catching her eye.

Phyllis,

Saw that you had fallen asleep while putting Grace down—Didn’t want to wake you.  Sorry about everything tonight.  Hope I can make it up to you somehow. 

Love,

Ronan

He hadn’t done anything wrong and yet he was still apologizing.  The only thing he’d done was tell her the truth, a truth she didn’t want to hear, a truth she was trying to deny, but somehow being with Ronan was making things better.  Being with him made being without Billy more bearable and as wrong as that felt, something about it felt right too.

“Ugh,” she groaned, as she ran her fingers through her hair.  Tonight she just needed to sleep.

~

“Yeah?” Ronan pressed the phone to his ear.  It was early, but it really didn’t matter.  It wasn’t as if he’d been sleeping anyway.  His night had been filled with thoughts, thoughts of Phyllis, of Grace, of Billy.  He’d tossed and turned all night, his mind constantly spinning, wondering, and worrying.  One hour would bring certainty that he was doing the right thing—that Phyllis was better off with him—that he could make her happy, that he could be a good father figure to Grace, that he would love and protect them both…and he would.  That was true.  The next hour would bring certain disaster—what happened if she ever found out?  She’d feel betrayed and she’d hate him.  Grace would hate him.  They would believe he’d kept this from them because he wanted them for himself.  They’d never believe he did it to protect them.  The thoughts were making him crazy and, try as he might, he couldn’t get his brain to shut up.

“Detective Malloy?”

“Yeah?”  Ronan repeated, not yet recognizing the female voice.

“Hi, it’s Ashley..I’m not sure if you remember me.  I work at the hospital.  You were here the other day.  You visited the patient—the one that doesn’t remember anything about his life. Do you remember?”

Ronan swallowed hard.  “Yeah, Yeah, absolutely I remember.  Has something happened?”  His heart started to beat faster.

“That’s actually why I’m calling.  He wanted to know if you could come by later.  He’d like to talk to you about some things.”

“What kind of things?”

Ashley hesitated, not knowing exactly what she should say.  “I’m not really sure exactly.  He just…I think he feels like you kind of understood him and he just wants to talk about some things he’s feeling..maybe get some advice.”

Damn it. The last thing he needed was to be giving advice to the presumed dead lover of the woman he loved.  But what the hell….  “Okay, sure…I’ll  can uh…”  He glanced over at the clock on the microwave.  “I can be there in a few hours.”

“Great,” Ashley said cheerfully, “I’ll let him know.”

~

Ronan took another bite of his burger.  “Well, I mean…I wouldn’t say it’s nothing.  You’re definitely remembering something—it’s just not a whole lot to go on.”  He swallowed hard, finding it difficult to force the food down his throat.  The guilt seemed to well up inside him with each passing moment.  He’d been here for almost an hour now, listening to this man go on and on about how much he wanted to remember his life.  It would be so easy to tell him the truth.   He could fill in the blanks, tell him about the people that missed him, the people that mourned him, the life he’d left behind.

“I guess I was just thinking maybe there was something you could recommend…I mean I know it sounds crazy and all, but on those shows they have those sketch artists and all.  Maybe if I could remember more about the places or even about the people, you think you could recommend someone that could kind of help me come up with a visual?”

Ronan sighed.  “Yeah, I mean..we could try..it’s just.  I mean, right now all you’ve really got is a place…that’s not a whole lot to go on.”

“I know,” he sighed.  “It’s just so damn frustrating…I can’t remember anything and I want to…”

“Let me ask you something…say someone came in here and they told you that they knew who you were.  Say they told you that you had a family…say you had a wife and kids and a family…say you had all of that and they could tell you where they were and how to find them.”

“I’d be thrilled…I mean…”  He watched Ronan for a moment, realizing he was making a point…

“You don’t remember them.  Think about that.  You’ve been gone for what?  Months?  They think you’re gone…they’ve grieved…they’ve moved on.  You think it’s hard to not remember?  How do you think it would be to be forgotten?”  Ronan watched as the words resonated within him.

“I never really thought about it…I’ve been so busy trying to get my memory back.  I never really thought about what it would be like for the people…”  He looked up at Ronan.  “You think I should stop?  You think I should stop trying to remember?”

It might have been the look of utter desperation in his eyes.  It might have been the primal cry in Phyllis’ voice as she screamed at him the night before.  It might have been the sight of the sweet baby girl that might never know her father, but whatever the reason, Ronan found his hand reaching into his pocket, his fingertips quickly scrolling across the screen.  He held the screen out to him.  “Look at this,” he said, his voice low, as if somehow he was hoping he wouldn’t hear.

Ronan watched as his eyes studied the picture.

“Who are they?” he asked.

Ronan took a deep breath.  “That’s your life, Billy Abbott.”

 

Love Lost pt 14

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.

“Phyllis.”

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.”

 

Room for Me

“Don’t say it.  Don’t even think it.”  Phyllis took a deep breath as she pulled a soaking wet strand of hair away from her face.  “I have been to six hotels in this city.  Do you hear me?  Six…and I’m not going back out there again.”  She leaned in over the counter.  “I don’t care what I have to pay.  I don’t care what kind of room it is, but find me a room.”

“Maam…I’m sorry, but we’re…”

“Don’t call me Maam.”  She jerked the handle of her suitcase hard and sighed as it broke off in her hand.  “For God’s sake…what is it with this night?”

“I’m very sorry, but we don’t have any rooms.  I just booked out last room to that gentleman over there.”

“Where?  What gentleman?”  Phyllis turned, her eyes prepared to scan the crowd but finding a familiar face instead.

“I think that would be me.”

~

“Need some help?”

“I most certainly do not.”  She grabbed the suitcase by the cloth handle and clumsily rolled it over to an empty chair.  Her body fell into the sunken seat before digging through her bag to find her phone.

“You having some trouble finding a room?” Billy couldn’t help but smile as he watched her silently fume.  Phyllis hated being bested at anything and this was killing her.  “You know I hear this designer showcase has hotels booked up all over town.”

Her eyes shot up to look at him.  “Don’t you have a room to get to?”  He was smirking at her in that way—the way that made her want to slap him.

“I do actually.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I heard that guy say I got the last room available.  It’s a shame really…”  He wasn’t even trying to hide his pleasure now.  The fire in her eyes was something he always enjoyed.  It was that same fire that made her unpredictable, exciting, and impossible to control.  To some she was volatile and maybe even a little irrational, but to him she was the very essence of being alive.

The breath left her lips in a huff as she stood in front of him, her body mere inches from his.  “You know what, Billy?  I don’t have time to play games with you.  I have to find a room, so why don’t you just go so I can make some calls and do that, ok?”  She turned on her heel as she raised the phone to her ear.

He felt her body still as his hand touched her shoulder.  She didn’t resist him as his hand covered hers and slowly lowered the phone to her side.  “Actually,” he said quietly, turning her around to face him slowly.  “I was going to ask you to stay with me.”

~

“Wh-What?” She felt the blood rush to her cheeks as she stammered.  Sure there was still an attraction, a pull.  They had chemistry.  They both knew it, but she’d been so certain that he didn’t feel anything more than that, that he wanted a life with Victoria, that he wasn’t….She shook her head, trying to quiet the thoughts that overwhelmed her ability to be a functioning woman instead of a schoolgirl with a crush.  “You want me to stay with you…in your room?”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile, “I mean it makes sense doesn’t it?  I have a room.  You need a room.  We’re both here for the same show.  We might as well make the most of it.”

“Make the most of it…” She repeated the words aloud without meaning to as she allowed her eyes to drift up to meet his.  There had been moments when she’d allowed herself to remember the last time she’d been in his arms.  It seemed like so long ago.  Already her heart raced in her chest and she took a deep breath to steady herself before speaking again.  “Don’t you think it might be…”  She stopped, questioning her words, her intention, her sanity…. “Don’t you think it might be a mistake to….”

“Come on, Phyllis.”

His voice was impossibly soft, tender, warm.  God she missed him.

“We’re friends, right?  It’s not a big deal.  There’s two beds.  Who knows?  Maybe we can actually have a little fun.  It’s better than spending the entire weekend watching stupid late night television, right?”

“Two beds,” she breathed, “Yeah…you’re right..no big deal.” She gripped the broken handle of the suitcase hard in her hand, the jagged piece of plastic digging into the fleshy part of her palm.  The pain was just a distraction.

~

“Here we are..Room 316..Home sweet home.  At least for this weekend.”  Billy held the door open for her to walk inside.

Phyllis pulled the bag inside the door, moving towards the bed closest to the window.  She stopped in front of it.  “You have a preference?”

“No.  Take your pick.”  Billy pushed the door closed behind him as he pushed his suitcase towards the small chair and table.  He watched her for a moment as she slipped off her coat and hung it on the hook on the wall.  She’d said nothing on the elevator and, even now, she wasn’t looking at him.

“Hey.”  He stepped over, closer to her.  “You okay?”

“Everything’s fine.”  She glanced up, meeting his eyes for only a moment before looking away again.  “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“I don’t know.  You just seemed…I don’t know…distant or something.”

“I’m just tired.  It’s been a long day—a long, frustrating day.  I think I just need some sleep.  Early day tomorrow, right?”

Billy nodded.  “Yeah.  First showing starts at 9.  You want to grab some breakfast downstairs before we head out?”

“You don’t need to do that.  Do your own thing.  We’re not here together.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but stopped as he watched her.  She stood, her hands busied with her suitcase as she folded and unfolded clothing in an attempt to keep herself occupied.  It was clearly the frenzied activity of someone desperate to keep from thinking, from feeling, from saying what she really meant to say.

“Where did that come from?”

She turned her back to him.  “It’s just the truth.  You came here for Brash and Sassy.  I came here for Fenmore’s.  We didn’t come here together.  The only reason I’m here—in this room is because they were out of room and you agreed to let me stay here.  That doesn’t mean you need to do anything to occupy me.  We both have our own plans for the weekend.  You do your thing.  I’ll do mine.  That’s the way it should be, right?”  Her eyes shut tight as she held her breath.  There would be no more tears.  She couldn’t allow herself to feel again, because that kind of hurt couldn’t happen twice.  Her heart couldn’t handle it.

~

“You sure you don’t want any?”

Phyllis glanced up from her laptop.  “I’m fine—honestly.”

Billy sighed.  “And I’m offering—honestly.  Seriously.  I’m not going to eat a large pizza myself.”  He smiled as he saw her eyes widen slightly as he pulled a piece from the box and allowed the cheese to string across the plate.  “Come on…you know you want some…”

She giggled, finally relenting and sliding the laptop over to the side of the bed.  “Alright….if you’re sure you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind.”

He waited until she’d settled in with the plate on her lap before shifting to face her.  “So…how are things with Fenmore’s?”

The confusion on his face as she sputtered and cough was almost as amusing as the question itself.  “Really?  That’s how we’re going to play this?”

“What?”

“It’s just…it seems a little weird..you and me sitting here in a hotel room, eating pizza, and chit chatting about work.  It’s all very polite, very mundane…It just seems a little out of character I guess.”

“Eh—Fair point I suppose, but we’re grown-ups, right?  We can be friends.  We can talk about our lives.  We can have relationships.  We can do this.  We were friends first…before….”  His voice trailed off as he felt the mood in the room shift.  “Sorry.”

She shook her head.  “It’s alright.  It was a matter of time.”

“Well,” he sighed, “Now that I’ve said it….I mean, it’s true.  We were you know.  We were friends before we were ever anything more and I miss that…I miss talking to you and venting and being able to tell you what I was thinking and feeling.”  His eyes softened as they stared into hers.

“I know,” she whispered.  “I miss it too.”

“You think we can ever have that again?  That kind of friendship?”

She smiled at the sincerity in his voice.  It wasn’t that she didn’t want to spend time with him.  It wasn’t that she didn’t miss him.  God—did she ever, but she wasn’t sure if she could ever be okay with only having part of him…with only being in his life in a way that forever assured her a place as a platonic placeholder.  “I hope so,” she whispered.  Her eyes drifted over to the clock on the bedside table.  “You know what…we better finish this up.  It’s getting late.”

He nodded sadly.  It was getting too real for her—for both of them.

~

“God Billy!” Phyllis shrieked.

“What? What’s the matter?”

“Just stay in there. Don’t come out yet.”  She pulled the gown down across her body, pulling the robe on quickly and tying the belt.  “Alright,” she sighed.  “It’s okay now.  You can come out.”

“What in the world is the matter with you?”  He walked out of the bathroom slowly, looking around the room.

“I was changing,” she said quietly.  “I thought you said you were getting ready for bed in there.”

“I did.  All I had to do was brush my teeth though…that only takes so long.”  He looked at her for a moment, a smile spreading across his face.  “I don’t know what you’re so freaked out about though.  It’s not like I’ve never seen it before.”

He expected a witty remark, some sarcastic banter, a biting comeback—something very Phyllis, but instead he watched in horror as her face crumbled.

“You think I don’t know that,” she said softly.  She took a few steps towards him, her eyes now locked on his, their gaze never wavering.  “You think I don’t remember the way it was between us, the times we spent together, the moments, the touches, the words we said?  You think you have to remind me?”

“Phyllis.”  The word was barely a whisper as it left his mouth, his hand reaching out to touch her as she jerked away.

“I remember, Billy.  I remember everything.  Every single day I try to forget, but I can’t.  I can’t forget it and I can’t forget you.”  She crawled into bed, pulling the covers up tight around her as she turned her back to him.

He stared up at the ceiling, the weight of her words crushing him, weighing so heavily on his chest that he could barely breathe.  Slowly, he moved to stand, the movement of his body causing the bed to shift slightly.

“Don’t,” she hissed.  “Just don’t.”

He closed his eyes as he sank back onto the pillows.  It would be a long night tonight.

~

The sunlight flickered in through the blinds and his eyes opened.  For a moment he was amazed he actually fell asleep at all.  His next thought was of her.

“Phyllis.”  He glanced over at the bed.  The covers were pulled up and the outfit she’d laid out to wear the next day was gone.  Clearly she’d had no intention of being there when he woke up.  Her words still rang in his head.  She still thought about him…in the same way he thought about her.  Knowing that, that simple knowledge gave him everything he needed.  He knew exactly what he was going to do today.

~

Phyllis sat up straight.  She’d forced herself to get up this morning, to get dressed, to have breakfast and put her game face on.  She was a businesswoman.  She was here to work.  She had a job to do and she was going to do it—no matter what Billy Abbott did or didn’t do.  He had blown apart her life once before.  She couldn’t allow him to do it again.

The notebook page was clean as she held it in her hand, her pen poised to capture notes and sketches.  This was a clean slate, in every sense of the word.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the emcee stated, “Thank you all for coming out this morning.  We have a wonderful event planned for you but before we begin, there’s someone that needs to make a special announcement.”

Phyllis sighed as she glanced down at her watch.  It was always something.  She began to scribble the date across the top of the page as her pen fell from her hand, the sound of the voice ringing out through the room sending a shockwave though her body.

“Good morning.”  Billy took a breath as he looked out across the room.  He’d looked for her while he stood back, waiting for his moment, but he’d been unable to find her within the sea of faces.  “Many of you don’t know me,” he said, his voice slightly shaky, “and that’s okay…many of you don’t need to.  The truth is, many of you won’t care about this—about what I’m going to say…and that’s okay too.  This is about you.  This is only about one of you.”  He stopped for a moment, his eyes finally falling on her face.

She sat there wide eyed, her mouth slightly agape.

“For most of my life I’ve been known as a screw up.  I’ve never been the guy that anyone could depend on to do the right thing.  I’ve always been the one that people kind of have to look out for…the one that waits until the worst possible time to make the worst possible decision.  I’m always a bit of a black sheep, an underdog.  I guess in a way I kind of like it that way.  I feel like it’s made me a fighter.  I think it’s made me tough.  Somewhere along the way I kind of got it in my head that I have to fight for everything, but sometimes you don’t have to fight.  Sometimes—you just find someone that makes it all okay…you find someone that makes you feel like it’s not always so hard.  You find someone that gets you..someone that understands.”

He took a few small steps closer to the edge of the stage where he could see her better.  “I found a person like that and I had that feeling for a while.  I got to experience what it was like to be with someone that made everything better just by being there.  She could walk into a room and light it up.  She could smile at you and make you feel like the most important person in the world and when she loved you, it was like you were untouchable.  I had that…and I let it go.  But if there’s one thing I know about—it’s fighting..and if I want something bad enough, I fight for it.  I’ve been fighting for things my whole life.”

Billy stood closer now, close enough to see the tears as they streamed down her face.  “I fought for you once and I’ll fight for you again….and I don’t lose.  I won’t lose…not this time….not this fight.”

He handed the microphone back to the emcee who simply stood silent for a moment as Billy walked from the stage, his eyes locked on her.

Phyllis stood, walking towards the aisle to meet him.  She said nothing as he took her hand and led her outside into the lobby.

“I’m sorry,” he began.  “I know you probably wish I hadn’t done anything so…”

Her lips were on his before he could finish and she kissed him in a way she hadn’t before.  It wasn’t a kiss that was filled with fear or regret.  There was no other motive, no agenda, no one else in that room.  It was only them.  As he pulled away to look at her, he saw the look in her eyes, the same look he’d seen so many months ago.  “You’re here,” he whispered quietly.  “You’re okay.  I’m not gonna have to fight for you again?”

She smiled, leaning into him as she shook her head in blissful disbelief.  “I’ve always thought of you as more of a lover than a fighter.”

The End

 

To The Rescue

This is a one shot that I threw together based on the spoilers for Monday’s US show.  Though I have no reason to believe this is in any way what the show has planned, it’s nice to hope and dream. 

 

Should it be concerning when the bartender no longer needs to ask you for your order?  Probably, Billy thought to himself, but tonight he didn’t care.  Tonight it meant one less thing he had to say, one less effort he had to make.  He nodded politely as he took the scotch in his hand, swirling the amber liquid around in the glass.

Not even the best drink could make him forget this day.  He closed his eyes as the liquor ran down his throat.  Over and over again his mother had berated him about putting the company first.  She’d practically pleaded with him to throw his heart and soul into the brand, to invest in it, to focus.  Now he finally had.  She’d finally gotten her wish.  He was plugged in.  Brash and Sassy was thriving and now she decides to sell.

What a slap in the face—but par for the course in the bad joke that had become his life.

He sat the glass down hard on the bar, nodding at the bartender for another—then he heard it.  He’d know that voice anywhere.  Slowly he turned around on the stool, his eyes searching the room and finding her almost immediately.

~

She glanced at his watch as he reached for his water.  Dear God that cannot be right.  It’s only been a half hour?  Is that possible?  She forced a smile and another stilted laugh as she took a drink from her wine glass.

“And everyone just assumes that once you get a law degree you want to practice law you know, but that’s not always the case.  Some people just have other plans, other aspirations.  It’s not always about the almighty dollar, you know?”

Phyllis drew in a breath, nodding politely.  He’d been talking nonstop since the moment they’d sat down.  “So, you didn’t practice law?”

“Nope,” he said, taking another bite of bread, and continuing the conversation while chewing.  “I didn’t want to spend my life standing in a courtroom arguing with people all day.  I mean can you imagine?  Spending your entire day just talking and yelling at people over things that really don’t matter?  I was far more interested in the business side of things—corporate stuff, so I figured that if I spent some time in the business world, I’d be able to spend time negotiating contracts, focusing on the numbers, making a difference in the companies that really make the world go round.”

Jesus.  He can get more boring. “And, you like that?”

“Like it?  I love it.  I’ve got a house in Chicago, one in Aspen.  I’m looking to acquire some land in Santa Monica—ocean front.  It’s beautiful out there—have you been?”

“To California? Yes, a few times.  It’s very nice.”

“If you’re calling Cali nice, you haven’t been with the right guy.”  He leaned back in his chair as he took a drink from his water.  “You need to come with me to Cali. Better yet, you like to ski?”

“I…”  She hesitated.

“Of course you do, everyone likes to ski.  I’m pretty sure my place in Aspen is open right now.  Let me see if the plane is available.  I could get us out there this weekend.”

Phyllis opened her mouth to speak, stunned at his arrogance and blatant disregard for her schedule.  “Jeff, I can’t just…”

“So, this is why you can’t take Sasha to ballet practice?”

“Billy, I…What are you doing here?”  She stared at him, her eyes wide with confusion.  Out of the corner of her eye she could see Jeff abruptly end the phone call, quickly realizing the entrance of a third party.

“What am I doing here?  I should be asking you that.”  Billy glared at her, his eyes heavy on her.  He looked over at Jeff who sized him up.

“Phyllis, who is this guy?”

Phyllis stumbled over her words as she tried to process what was happening.  “This is…He’s….”

“Billy Abbott,” he said sternly.  “I’m her husband—And I might ask you the same damn question.  Who the hell are you and why are you having dinner with my wife?”

“Your wife?”  Jeff looked back and forth between them in quick succession, his eyes finally settling on Phyllis.  “Your profile said you were single.”

“Profile?”  Billy raised his voice, his hands now gesturing wildly to add to the drama.  “What are you doing—advertising on one of those God forsaken dating sites?”

It was a mix of amusement and great relief that flooded her body.  Both of which made it difficult to keep a straight face, but she gave it her effort.  “You know things haven’t been right, Billy.  We haven’t been connecting,” she spat, looking away from him, afraid that staring into his eyes might cause her to break into a fit of laughter.

“So what?  That just gives you the right to go out dating?  To skip out on your responsibilities?  I was the only Dad at that ballet rehearsal you know?  That’s embarrassing.  I don’t know how to plie  or eleve.  It’s embarrassing.”

“It’s  not my fault you never show any interest in dance. Maybe if you’d shown up to a few of the recitals you’d..”  Phyllis paused, glancing across the table, noticing for the first time that Jeff’s chair was now empty.

She smiled as she glanced back over at Billy.  “Guess I’m not going to Aspen.”

~

“I should have figured him for a short ribs kind of guy,” Billy smirked as he took another bite from the plate.  “Sucks that he didn’t even get to eat his own dinner.  These are good.”

Phyllis laughed softly.  “So…how exactly did you end up here to play white knight?”

“Long story,” he sighed.

She stared at him, her eyebrows arching.

“Short version—My mother informed me that she’s selling Brash and Sassy and she’s giving the three of us—Vic, Cane and I—first dibs.  Of course, you know who has the best chance of being able to make the most competitive offer.”

“Victoria.”  She took a bite of her salad and chewed thoughtfully.  “But I’m sure she’d want you to help and maybe…”

“You really want to do that?”  His eyes went soft as they looked into hers.  “Push Victoria on me?”

“No,” she whispered, her cheeks flushing a bit.

Billy cleared his throat.  “So—tell me what the deal is with the mystery man and your supposed profile on a dating site?”  His smile grew.  “What site is this?”

She swatted his hand playfully.  “It’s all Nick’s fault.  He decided I needed to get back in the dating game and he sat us this profile for me on this app.  I just gave it a shot, but if this guy is any indication of the eligible guys in this town, I’m far better off staying single.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.” He stilled, the words having come out of his mouth before he had a chance to think.  Now, it was impossible to take them back and the impact was already there—hanging in the tense air that now sat between them.

“You uh—you think there could still be a guy out there for me?”  They both knew the real question—the one being asked and the one that wasn’t.

“Yeah, I do.  I think there’s absolutely a guy out there for you..someone that deserves you.  Someone that will love you and protect you and cherish you.  Someone that will realize how lucky they are to have someone like you.”  He paused, reaching out and gently squeezing her hand before standing and staring at her for a long moment.  “And maybe they’re closer than you ever thought possible.”  She felt his hand brush her shoulder gently as he stepped away from the table.  He paused for a moment, glancing back over his shoulder to smile at her.

“Good night,” she whispered.

He nodded and walked quickly from the room.

 

 

Step by Step pt 5

Nick pulled the car to a stop, letting the breath leave his body in long sigh before moving to get out of the car.  This was the last place he wanted to be and it was certainly the last place she needed to be.  When he’d returned from taking Christian to playgroup, he’d thought it was odd that she wasn’t home, but he hadn’t gotten worried—at least not really worried—until it started to get dark.  That’s when he’d started to call her phone.  Again and again it went to voicemail.  He’d sent her texts with no response.  He’d called Jack, Billy, Michael, Lauren, and everyone else he could think of that might have any reason to know where she was.  Then it hit him.  He knew where she was.

He stood at the doorway.  Part of him would be relieved to see her here, to know that she was safe, but part of him was terrified to see how he would find her.  He slowly slid his hand into his pocket to retrieve the key.

“Phyllis,” he said softly, his eyes surveying the room.  He rushed over to her, afraid from his immediate impression that she might be hurt.  “Phyllis,” he repeated, the urgency in his voice eliciting a slight response from her.

“Just go, Nick.”  It was desperation, almost pleading.  She had crawled into the dark hole he knew so very well and now she just wanted to stay there.  She wasn’t interested in being pulled out.  He knew that feeling too, that instinct.

He looked down around her.  “What is all this?” He asked the question even though he didn’t need to.  He knew exactly what it was.  Summer’s face stared up at him from every age.  Phyllis had always been diligent about taking pictures, believing that capturing the memories of her childhood would give them happy things to look back on in years to come.  No one could have guessed they would become memories so soon.

“Pictures,” she breathed, her voice slurred and shaky.  “It’s all I have left now…is pictures.”  She reached down, her hand clutching one.

Nick closed his eyes, his heart paining as he saw the image.  He remembered that day.  It wasn’t anything extraordinary—just a random day in their life.  Summer was sitting on the floor, playing with blocks and Phyllis was working on the computer.  For whatever reason, Summer suddenly crawled up on the sofa and snuggled in beside her mother.  It was at that moment, Nick sat down beside them and snapped an impromptu family photograph.

“You remember this?” she asked, tears streaming down her face.

He nodded.  “Yeah.  Those were good days.  Really good days.”

“We didn’t have enough.”

“I know.”  He reached out to try and comfort her.  “I know…it’s never long enough.”

“No,” she yelped, jerking away from his touch.  “We didn’t have enough good days.  We didn’t give her the life she deserved.  We were so damn selfish.  We couldn’t even stay a family…we couldn’t even give her that.”

“Don’t do that.”  Nick looked over, the sight of two bottles beside her.  “Phyllis,” he began.  “How much have you had to drink?”

“What does it matter?” she huffed.

“It matters because it isn’t going to help anything.  It won’t make anything better.  Trust me.  I’ve tried it all and it doesn’t make the pain go away.”

“Something has to.”

“Nothing will.  I promise you.  The only way you get through it is to go through it.  You can’t drink your way through it.  You can’t blame your way through it.  You just have to deal with it. It sucks, but it’s the way it is.”

“I’m not strong enough.”  The words came out in broken sobs now.  “I can’t.”  Her eyes rose to meet his, the anger that he saw present mere moments ago now turning to fear and desperation.  “I can’t go through it.  I won’t be able to stand it.  I feel like someone is literally ripping my heart out.”  She raised her body up to her knees, moving towards him, reaching out to him.  “Please tell me how to make it stop.”

He shook his head, pulling her close to him, feeling her body shake with sobs as he finally relented and let his own tears fall.  “I can’t make it stop,” he whispered.  “I’m sorry.”

~

It could have been minutes or even hours, he honestly had no idea.  Time no longer had any meaning in grief like this.  She had been the one to pull away.

Phyllis sat back down, her hand reaching for the bottle closest to her.  She took off the cap with shaky hands, not bothering with a glass, simply taking a long drink straight from the bottle.

Nick shook his head.  “You feel better?”

“Not yet,” she sighed.

“You won’t.  That’s not going to help.”

“I just need to not think about it.  Just for a little while.  I need this aching to stop.  I can’t go through every moment of every day missing her.  I can’t play this over and over and over in my mind because if I do…if that’s what I have to do, it’s going to make me crazy.”

“Hey,” he touched her arm softly, his eyes still burning with the possibility of tears.  “I’m here.  I’ll help you.”

“You’re not in here,” she sobbed, pointing to her head.  “I hear her voice all the time.  I dream about her.  I think of all the things I should have done…all the things I should have said…all the things I did wrong..all the horrible things…and now I’ll never have the chance to fix anything.  I’ll never have the chance to say anything else to her.”

“Don’t do that to yourself, Phyllis.  Summer knew you loved her.  Everyone knew that.”

She was quiet for a moment.  “I know,” she sighed.  “I know she knew I loved her…I just…it doesn’t make the pain stop.”  Her eyes met his again.  “What does, Nick?”

His hand touched her face softly, wiping away the tears that seemed to be in unending supply.  She leaned against him, her body trembling.  He didn’t answer.  He had no answers.

“You’re shaking,” he said quietly.  “Have you eaten anything?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“That doesn’t matter. You’ve got to eat something.  I’m gonna..”  He stopped as he felt her hand tighten around his.  He looked down, surprised to see her eyes staring directly into his.

“Please don’t go,” she said softly.

Nick nodded, swallowing hard as he sat down on the couch and gently pulled her up to sit beside him.  “Alright,” he said quietly.  “I’ll stay….but no more drinking.”

“Ok.”  Phyllis stared at him intently, her eyes barely blinking as they weighed heavy on his.  “I think you’re right,” she whispered.  “I don’t think that’s going to help.  I don’t think that’s going to make me feel better, but I think you can help me.”  She didn’t wait for him to ask, she simply leaned forward, her lips pressing against his.

“Phyllis, Phyllis stop.”  His hands gripped her shoulders, firm but gentle—“This isn’t going to help.  This isn’t even what you want.”

“I want to feel something—anything other than the pain I’m feeling right now.”  Her eyes stared into his again.

The pain he saw there was so familiar.  She knew him so well.  They could talk.  They could cry.  They could scream, but it wouldn’t change anything.  They’d still feel the pain—but for a moment, they could forget—they could be what used to exist—even if only for a moment.  He let his hands fall, his body relaxing, his eyes closing as he felt her lips fall on his again.

Love Lost pt 13

The sound of the fork hitting the plate was confirmation that she’d heard him clearly.

“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, his hand instinctively rushing to his mouth to cover it, as if somehow he might be able to push the words back in.  “I shouldn’t have said that.  I’m so sorry.”

Phyllis blinked back at him, her eyes wide.  “I…”  She took a breath, her trembling hands now clutching the sides of the table.  “Excuse me, please.”

Ronan stood, unable to do or say anything, simply watching as she rushed from the room.

~

“Aright mister.”  Ashley took a seat beside the bed, clutching her phone in her hand.  “Let’s find you a name.”  She grinned up at him, with clear determination in her eyes.  “I have a list of the most popular male names for the year.  Let’s pick one.”

Billy chuckled softly.  It seemed like a crazy concept, picking a name from a list, but why the hell not.  When you can’t remember who you are, things like this become your luxury.  “Alright,” he sighed, “Let’s hear them.”

“Okay…We’ve got Bennett, Aiden, Sage, Liam, Michael…”  She paused to look at him.  “None of those suit you.  There’s Mason, Jacob, Matthew, Noah, William, Cameron, John..”

“We could just go with that you know.”

Ashley looked up from her phone.  “Go with what?”

“John..I mean, they were calling me John Doe anyway, right?  I kind of like John—it’s simple, basic..kind of what I need right now.”

“John huh?”  Ashley smiled at him before standing, “Alright then, John.  Let’s see what we can do about getting you started on your brand new life.”

~

“Phyllis?” Ronan stepped slowly into the kitchen, stopping as he saw her standing against the counter.  “If you want me to go, just say so.” He stood still for a moment, waiting for a response.  Hearing nothing he turned.

“Wait, Ronan.  Don’t go.”  She watched him as he turned back towards her slowly.  “I didn’t mean to run out like that.”

“No.  No.  I’m the one that should be apologizing.  I had no right to say something like that to you.  I should have never pushed like that.  You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.  This was all on me.”

She sighed.  “Let’s go in the living room and talk,” she said softly, leading him out the kitchen and taking a seat on the edge of the bed when she reached the other room.  Her hand raked through her hair as she struggled to find the right words.  “What you said earlier…I…”

“I know,” Ronan interrupted.  “I shouldn’t have…”

“You gonna let me finish?”  She flashed a small smile at him, the hint of fire in her eyes sending a wave of heat through him.  He loved the banter they used to share and it warmed him to know that she still had that spark and life in her.

“Sorry,” he whispered, gesturing towards her with his hand.  “The floor’s all yours.”

“And stop apologizing,” she said quickly.  “There’s nothing for you apologize for.  It’s not like you said something horrible.  You told me you loved me.  People like hearing that.  It’s a nice thing.  It just took me by surprise.  That’s all.”

He opened his mouth to speak, then stopped.  He smiled, his eyes asking the question.

“Go ahead,” she smiled.

“I totally understand.  I didn’t mean for it to come out like that.  I never meant to just blurt it out, but I do mean it.  I’m not asking you for anything, Phyllis.”

She softly placed her hand on the empty space beside her, her head tilting, urging him over.  Her body turning to his when he sat down.  “Do you remember when you left town years ago…do you remember what you said to me?”

Ronan nodded.  There was very little about his interactions with her that had left his mind.  He remembered everything..the way she looked, the way she felt, the way she smelled.  He remembered ever conversation, every argument, every look of amusement, consternation, and annoyance and everything he’d done to cause each and every one.

“You said I wasn’t allowing myself to fall for you…and you were right.”  She looked at him, her eyes sincere.  “I was afraid of getting hurt.  I was afraid of investing more than I could afford to lose.  And now—knowing what I know, I’m probably more afraid that I ever was back then. “

“I get that,” he said softly.  “I know you’ve been through hell.”

“Every night since the night Billy died, I’ve fallen asleep thinking about him, and every morning, my first thought when I open my eyes is whether or not this horrible reality has just been a nightmare.”

She brought her hand to his lips, covering his mouth as she saw him poised to speak.

“Last night, I didn’t think about him…last night, I fell asleep thinking about you.  This morning, when I woke up, I wasn’t thinking about him..I was thinking about you. And there’s a part of me that wants this…that wants you…but there’s another part..a huge part that feels guilty.”

He closed his eyes, the weight of the secret he carried becoming more and more difficult to bear.  It was the sincerity in her eyes, the pain in her voice that made it all the more difficult to keep quiet, but those very same elements were promises of what could be a future with her.  “I want you to know that I would never ask you to forget about him,” he said softly.  “You love him.  I respect that.”

“But..”  She felt the tear slide down her face just before she felt his hand brush it away.  Her hand covered his as she pulled it away from her face, holding it now tightly in her grasp.  “He’s gone,” she managed, “And as much as I wish it weren’t true, it is. I have to accept that.  I have to move on because that’s what he would want.  He wouldn’t want me to be alone.  He would want me to find someone that loves me and cares about me. He’d want me to have someone that will protect me and Grace..someone good and honest..someone I feel safe and comfortable with.”  She stared at him, her eyes still shimmering with tears.  “Someone like you.”