Love Lost pt 25 The End

“Hey.”  His voice was soft as he pulled the door open and waited for her to step inside.  Grace turned into her chest, clutching her body and pulling away from him.

Phyllis glanced up with apologetic eyes.  “She just woke up from a nap,” she sighed, “She’ll warm up a bit.”

Billy nodded, trying to at least pretend to believe that was the reason.  In truth, Grace wasn’t becoming the least bit comfortable with him.  Maybe it was because she could sense how tense it was between them, how much he felt like he let Phyllis down every time he couldn’t remember the memories and the moments she described.  It had been weeks now and each time she visited, he felt like he hurt her even more.

“I brought you more albums,” she said cheerfully.  “Your sister sent some from when you were younger and then I found the first professional pictures I had taken of Grace…I don’t think you’ve seen those yet.”  She glanced up, smiling at him, her eyes full of hope—just as they always were, until he ruined it. “And then there’s these…”

He walked over towards the couch, glancing down at Grace who was now happily settled on her play mat.  “What are they?”  Billy let his eyes glance over to the stack that still remained in her hands.  By the look on her face, he could tell it meant something—this was a moment she desperately wanted him to remember.

“I uh…we…before we really started seeing each other publically, we were together a few times at the Abbott cabin, but that really wasn’t a place that we could call ours and you wanted us to have a place like that…somewhere that would be special for us.”  Her hand trembled a bit as she held the pictures out towards him.

It was like literal pressure surrounded him as he slowly flipped through the pictures.  He saw their faces and he could tell, without a doubt, that he’d been happy there.  That they’d been happy in that place and in that moment, but nothing about it seemed familiar.  He looked up at her, the hope shining in her eyes.  “I…”

“Do you remember?”

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I…”

She stood quickly, turning her back.  She’d done everything she knew to do and nothing had worked.  Ashley had asked her not to give up, but more and more this felt like torture both for her and for him.  Maybe she had lost him—not in the way she’d thought, but in every way that really mattered.  The Billy she loved had died that night in that accident.  Maybe it was time to accept that.

“You know what?,” her breath nearly caught in her throat, but she forced herself to continue, “I really should go.”

Billy rose quickly, meeting her where she stood across the room.  “So soon?  You just got here.”

“I can’t….I just can’t…”  Her voice betrayed her and she glanced up at him one last time.  She rushed over to Grace, gathering her quickly in her arms and rushing for the door.  “I’ll call you later,” she breathed as she disappeared into the foyer.

He stood frozen in place until the heard the heavy wooden door close.  His eyes followed her as she walked to the car, wiping what he thought were tears off her cheeks as she strapped Grace into the carseat.  It seemed strange, watching her from the window like this…as if she was talking everything in his world with him…even if he didn’t know how much it meant to him.

~

“I know, baby.”  Phyllis lifted Grace out of the car seat.  “You don’t like being strapped in there, do you?”  Her daughter’s sweet smile made her laugh softly.  She was the only thing that could possibly bring any joy to her right now.

She stepped into the coffeehouse, happy to see it was busy enough not to allow her to be the center of attention.

“Phyllis?”

Her head turned towards the sound of her name and she breathed in relief.

“Ronan.”  It was strange that her first instinct was to smile.  Somehow her anger had dissipated over the weeks and, after talking to him a few times, she’d really started to see the reasons behind what he’d done.  It wasn’t exactly that she agreed, and she’d probably never completely understand, but she knew it wasn’t his intention to hurt her and right now, that was enough.

“It’s good to see you,” he whispered, walking over to her hesitantly.  He smiled broadly as Grace stretched her arms out towards him.  “Hey you,” he smiled, reaching for her and easily taking her into his arms.

“Well, someone certainly missed you,” Phyllis grinned.

“Just her?”

They walked over to the table, and took a seat.  Phyllis watched as Grace smiled up, her hand slowly touching the stubble on his face as she usually did.  “No,” she said softly, “I missed you too.  It’s really good to see you.”

“You too.  I’ve been thinking about you.  I wanted to call, but…”

“Why didn’t you?”

Ronan shook his head.  “It wasn’t my place to interfere.  I know you and Billy are trying to work things out.  I know that’s what you want and I think in time, he’ll realize it’s what he wants too.”  He studied her face as he said the words.  The pain in her eyes was palpable.  “Hey,” he said softly, “What’s up?  What happened?”

“It’s just…I’m not sure Billy and I are gonna happen.  He doesn’t remember anything, Ronan and I don’t know if I can keep pretending that everything is just going to work out.  It just hurts too damn much.” Tears filled her eyes almost instantly, the realization setting in as the words left her lips.  It was hard enough to entertain the thoughts in her mind, but saying them out loud, especially to another person…it made it real.

This was what he wanted, wasn’t it?  Didn’t he want her to give up on Billy—so that she’d be free to be with him?  Maybe so, but her tears weren’t supposed to be part of the equation.  “Maybe you just need to give it some time.”

“How much time?” she asked, the desperation screaming in her voice.  “It’s been almost a month, Ronan and nothing…just a stupid perfume…I can’t….”

He was quiet for a moment, considering his words.  “How about if you just got away for a bit…maybe just took Grace away for a few days..a long weekend.  Do something fun…something to just get your mind off all this craziness.  It would take the pressure off all of you.”

Phyllis nodded.  “It sounds like a good idea, but traveling with a baby isn’t as relaxing as you might think,” she smiled.

“What if I came along?”  He saw the look of shock in her eyes, and quickly added… “Just to help with Grace..no pressure.”

A part of her felt as if she should turn him down, but the other part of her felt this would be a break…a chance for her to let herself heal and maybe a moment for her to accept what her life might be like with Billy in it, but without him as a part of it.

“I’d like that,” she said quietly.

~

She sat in the car, her heart pounding.  She was thankful the sitter had been available at the last minute.  This wasn’t exactly what she wanted Grace to witness—even though she had no reason to believe this would be ugly.  Billy didn’t remember what they had, why would he fight not trying to get it back.

The walk to the front door seemed like an impossible feat and when she finally made it there, her hand felt impossibly heavy as she lifted it to knock on the door.  The sight of his face standing there almost sent her running back towards the car.

“I was wondering how long you were gonna sit out there,” he said, the smile she loved so much playing across his face.

“Oh,” she said, her cheeks reddening with embarrassment.  “I didn’t realize you saw me.  I was just thinking..”

“It’s okay.  You need to go back out there or have you thought enough?”

She smiled, her nerves getting the better of her as she fidgeted with her hands.  “I’m good now,” she breathed.  “Can I come in?”

He stepped aside, waiting for her walk in.

She’d barely passed him and heard the door close when she turned around, surprised to see him facing her.  “Look, Billy, I don’t want to drag this out, so I’m just gonna say what I came here to say.”

“Okay.”

‘It’s not really him.’ She said the words silently to herself as she looked into those eyes—the eyes she’d stared into so many times.  “You know you’ll always be Grace’s father and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the two of you have an opportunity to build your relationship, but us…what we had it was once in a lifetime and I don’t think we can recreate that.”

He stared at her.  “What are you trying to say, Phyllis?”

“I just…I can’t keep doing this.  I can’t keep trying to make you remember because it hurts too damn much, Billy and it’s not fair.  It’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to you.  Grace doesn’t deserve to feel this tension between us and it’s just got to stop.” She could feel the weight of his eyes on her and she looked away.  “Anyway,” she managed, “that’s what I wanted to say.  I’m actually going to be going out of town for a few days, but I’ll be in touch and I’m…”  Her composure was slipping and the last thing she wanted was for him to see her fall apart.  “I’m just gonna go now.”  She headed towards the door, pushing past him but immediately feeling his arm grip her wrist.

“Phyllis, Wait.”

She jerked away.  “Let me go,” she breathed, looking up at him, tears glistening in her eyes.  She stopped for a moment as she caught a look in his eye.  He stood completely still, his arm wrapped around her wrist.

For a moment, she’d swear neither of them breathed until she felt him pull her close to him.  “Before,” he whispered, “We’ve been here before.”  Her slight gasp was the only answer he needed.  His hand shook as he reached up, brushing her hair from her face.

“You were wearing a blue shirt with buttons…and a black skirt.”  He paused, letting the moment play in his mind like a movie, the images slowly coming into focus—“You were leaving and I stopped you and then….”

“What?”  The one word was the best she could muster.  Her heart beat furiously inside her chest, but the rational side of her tried to keep her expectations in check.  She swallowed hard, forcing herself to breathe.  “Then what?”

She felt him push her backwards and she followed his lead, already feeling the tears in her eyes as she knew where he was heading.  Her back rested against the wall as his hand gently cupped her face.

“And then I did this,” he whispered, pressing his lips to hers.

~

She sighed, laying her head on his bare chest as he pulled the chenille throw up over them.

“You okay?” he asked softly.

Lifting her head a bit, her eyes met his.  “Okay?” She shook her head.  “Okay isn’t the word for what I am.  I don’t even know a word to describe what I am right now.”

Billy smiled as he pressed his lips to her forehead.  “I don’t know how I could forget this,” he said softly.

“But you remember now?” she whispered, “Right? You remember?”

He nodded, “It’s like a switch was flipped.  I remember this and the cabin, and our non-trip to Montreal, and everything else.  I remember all the plans we made, and the dreams we had, how much we loved each other…”  His fingertips ran through her hair and he smiled as her eyes fluttered closed.  “But those memories aren’t nearly enough,” he whispered, his lips brushing against her cheek.

Phyllis’ eyes opened.  “What?  What do you mean?”

“I don’t just want to remember,” he smiled.  “I want to create some new memories and since you said Grace is with the sitter tonight.”  He smiled as he stood, wrapping the throw around her and lifting her in his arms.  “That means you and I have all night.”

She giggled as they headed up the stairs.

~

Ronan walked slowly beside the window.  It was ironic.  He’d only stopped by to see if Billy was really okay with him dating Phyllis.  He wanted to make sure he was honest and upfront, but that wouldn’t matter now.  Phyllis wasn’t available—maybe she never really had been.

He reached into his pocket, pulling out the three plane tickets to Florida.  He’d wanted this to be their chance to see what it would be like—to “test drive” being a family, but Phyllis already had that.  He pulled the pen and pad from his pocket and quickly scribbled out a note.  He needed to do this before his heart got the better of him.

Dear Phyllis,

Use these tickets to go on that trip with your family.  With all my  heart, I wish you all the love and happiness in the world. 

Love always,

Ronan

Ronan held the tickets for a moment, his heart breaking a bit as he bent down to slide them under the door.  She wouldn’t find them until the morning—no doubt they wouldn’t be returning downstairs tonight, but that was alright.  They were making up for lost time.

He trudged back to his car, slumping into the seat.  It was something he’d told grieving families many times.  This broken heart was his own fault for not heeding his own advice.

You can lose time.  You can lose people, but you never have to lose the love.

Love Lost pt 24

“I know, ok? I know.”  She sighed when she saw him look up at her, confusion in his dark eyes.  “I know I should just be grateful that you’re here, that you’re back, that you’re here with me and Grace, but I can’t help it…this anger it just creeps up inside of me and I have nowhere for it to go and I just…”  She took a shaky breath.  “So there, I said it.  Go ahead…”

Billy took a seat beside her on the couch.  “You know you have a right to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling.  I’m certainly not going to tell you any differently if that’s what you’re thinking.”  He heard a burst of air leave her lips and he smiled.  “Is that how it used to be?”

“No.”  The word left her mouth quickly.  She looked up at him, her eyes softening as she saw his face, his eyes hesitant.  “No, you were never like that.  I just feel like it’s what everyone’s thinking.  I’m not happy enough.  I’m not joyful enough, but this isn’t easy.”

“That’s my fault,” he said quietly, hanging his hand.

She placed her hand on his arm.  “It’s not your fault,” she whispered.  “It’s just the situation.  This whole damn situation and it was just made even more complicated by Ronan and his stupid plan to…”  Her voice trailed off as she saw Billy’s head shaking solely.  “What?”

He reached into his pocket, pulling out his square photo.  “Hear me out, okay?”  He could see the fire already flashing in his eyes and he held up a hand to placate her for a moment.  “Look at this.”  He handed her the photo and he watched in silence as her eyes widened a bit.

“Where do you get this?”

“Where do you think?”

She swallowed hard as she stared at the image.  Her eyes closed, her head dropped over her sleeping daughter.  “Ronan,” she whispered, emotion and questions floating in her voice.

Billy nodded.  “I get that you’re angry he didn’t tell you the second he knew and I know I’ve had a bit longer to come to terms with that than you have, but I’ve got to say, I get where the guy was coming from.  He didn’t do this to hurt you.  He wasn’t trying to keep me away from you.  He was trying to keep you from getting hurt.  He gave me this picture.  He promised to keep in touch.  He just wanted to keep you safe…to be there.  That’s all.  He went about it the wrong way, but he had the right things in his mind.  I just think you ought to know that.”

~

Phyllis jumped slightly at the sound of the knock on the door.  Billy had left nearly an hour ago and she’d been frozen in virtually the same spot ever since.  She couldn’t get his words out of her mind.  Ronan had the right things in his mind.  Did that mean he wanted her to give Ronan a chance?  Did he not want to try and make things work between the two of them?

Her heart beat faster as she walked quickly to the door, glancing towards Grace’s room and hoping the knocking wouldn’t wake her yet.  She pulled up the door.  “Ashley,” she breathed, her voice betraying her surprise.  “I didn’t expect to see you today. I’m sorry, but Grace is actually napping.”

Ashley smiled.  “I didn’t come here to see Grace, actually.  I was wondering if we might be able to talk.  I brought lunch.”  She held up two bags and forced a smile.  Though she and Phyllis had called a truce after Grace’s birth, their interactions were still civil at best.  Friendly lunch visits were still quite the stretch.

“Uh, sure..okay.”  Phyllis stepped aside, watching with interest as Ashley walked past her.  “Don’t take this the wrong way, Ashley, but we don’t eat lunch together and you never stop by to talk to me unless it’s to berate me about something and I’ve got to be honest…I’m really not up for it today.”

“Phyllis, I promise.  I’m not here to give you a hard time.  I honestly came here to try and make things better.  I swear.”  She laughed a bit at Phyllis’ narrowed eyes.  “Oh, come on!  Would you stop being so suspicious and just get us some plates.”

~

The sound of the fork hitting the plate startled her and Ashley’s eyes widened.

“Alright,” Phyllis sighed, “You’ve critiqued every food item here.  We’ve talked about Grace and Fenmore’s and Jabot.  You’ve complimented my outfit and even made a few frivolous comments on the weather.  At any point are you actually going to get to the point and tell me what you’re actually doing here?”

Ashley sighed, but smiled slightly.  “Honestly?”

Phyllis nodded.

“I wanted to talk about Billy.”

“Ashley…I thought we’d gotten past this..”

“No..not like that,” she interrupted, “I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help.  It’s just..”  She paused, shaking her head as she thought back on how everything had happened between them.  “The two of you went through so much to be together and then you  had what—a few months of happiness and now…”

“I know,” Phyllis took a sip from her glass. “I wanted to believe it would work out.  I really did, but he was just here a bit ago and I don’t know if that’s what he wants anymore.”  The sound of the words leaving her mouth made them even more real and she felt her eyes burn with the tears.

Ashley shook her head.  “Oh, I don’t believe that for a second.  What did he say?”

“He was defending Ronan..trying to get me to understand why he kept the news from me.  It was almost like he wanted me to be with him and not…”  She couldn’t say it again—couldn’t make herself say the words aloud once more.

“Phyllis,” Ashley breathed, “He’s just…he’s trying to help you get through this the only way he knows how right now.  You two loved each other.  It took me a long time to realize it but once I accepted it, I have to say you were good for my brother.  I never saw him as happy as he was when he was with you and when he was gone…Well, it broke my heart to see you like that.  I have to believe the two of you can get through this.”

“I want that Ashley, I do, but this is like losing him all over again…but it happens every day…in every moment.  Every time I look at him and I think I see a flash in him and then it’s not.  I don’t know how much longer I can take it.”

Ashley reached across the table, lightly touching her hand.  “Listen,” she whispered, “Just promise you won’t give up on him yet.  He needs you and you need him.  You have a beautiful daughter and I have to believe that all this didn’t happen so that it ends like this.”

Phyllis nodded, her mind going back to years ago when Billy had promised her their story didn’t end badly.  She looked up at Ashley and smiled.  “Yeah,” she whispered,  “that’s not the way this story ends.”

Love Lost pt 23

Billy looked up.  “Sorry,” he said quickly, “I hope I didn’t wake you.”

Phyllis smiled, feeling oddly awkward in the moment with him.  She stepped further into the kitchen.  “No,” she said softly, “not at all—the sitter is gonna be bringing Grace by in a bit, so I was already getting up. I hope you were able to find everything okay.”

“Yeah-I was.  I just wanted to make some coffee.”

“Did you sleep alright?”  She smiled weakly as she looked at him.  He was wearing the t-shirt and lounge pants she’d given him.  A few weeks after the accident, she’d gone through most of his clothing, donating what she could to a local homeless shelter, but she’d kept a few things—things that reminded her of him.  A white t-shirt and lounge pants were his staples for a lazy Sunday or any day really if he could convince her to stay home with him.

“It was great.  I told you I’ve been in a hospital bed…the twin bed in Grace’s room was like the Hilton.”

“Good..Good,” she sighed.  “It’s not great, but it’s the only place I had to stick a guest bed in a hotel suite.”

“Trust me, I was perfectly comfortable,” he smiled, “And now I’ve gone and made myself perfectly comfortable in your kitchen.”

“It’s fine.”  She shifted a bit, drawing in a breath.  “You don’t have to ask for permission to do anything here…these are as much your things as they are mine…I mean they would be if…”  She looked away, feeling uneasy.

“Here,” he said quickly, desperate to break the tension in the room.

“Thanks,” she smiled, stepping into the living room and feeling him following close behind her.  Her eyes fell on the photo albums scattered across the couch.

“I uh..I was just looking.”  He reached over, stacking them back on the shelf.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to overstep.” He heard her shaky sigh and turned to face her, seeing her sitting on the bed, her head in her hands.  “Are you alright?”

She shook her head, looking up at him and he could see by the sheen in her eyes that tears were coming.  “I just hate that it’s like this,” she whispered.  “We were never like this.”

“Like what?” he asked, honestly confused.

“Awkward, apologetic…like we’re walking on eggshells with each other.  We could talk about anything.  There was no judgment.  There was nothing off limits and now….it’s like we can’t even be in the same room together without it feeling like someone has sucked all the air out.”

“That’s my fault.”  Billy took a seat beside her.  “I’m sorry.”

“Please stop apologizing.  It’s not anyone’s fault.  I just wish…”  Her eyes stared into his for a moment.  It still took her breath away and it seemed unbelievable to her that he didn’t feel the same.  “I just wish you still felt something for me.”

He leaned a bit closer.  Her eyes were so earnest, and there was something almost intoxicating about being next to her.  He could feel the warmth of her body beside his.

Phyllis jumped as the knock on the door echoed through the silent room.

“That’ll be the sitter with Grace,” she said, already feeling the lump in her throat.  She looked over at Billy.  “You ready for this?”

~

He paced back and forth in front of the couch, wringing his hands in an effort to expel some nervous energy.  Hearing the door shut, he felt a wave of nausea come over him.  How was he supposed to do this?  How was he supposed to step back into the life of his nearly-five month old daughter?

“How’s Mommy’s sweet girl?”

Phyllis stepped into the room, holding Grace close to her as she looked up at Billy.  Tears stung her eyes as she struggled for words.  “Grace,” she whispered, smiling as she looked down at her, “We have a visitor.”

Billy closed the distance between them, staring down at the baby girl for the first time.  “She’s even more beautiful in person,” he whispered, reaching out and barely touching her.

“You can hold her,” Phyllis said quietly.

“No..she doesn’t want me to hold her.  She doesn’t even know me.”  Billy stepped back.

“She’ll get to know you.  Here…take her.”  Phyllis eased Grace into his arms and stepped back, taking a deep breath as she took in the moment.

Billy took a deep breath, struggling to relax as he stared into the wide eyes of the baby girl.  “I know you don’t know me,” he whispered, “It’s okay…”

Her tiny face was still for a moment before scrunching up and letting out an ear piercing wail.

“You should take her.”  His eyes looked up at Phyllis’ desperately.  “She’s afraid of me.  Please…”

Phyllis shook her head, reaching out and taking the baby girl back into her arms.  A few whispered words and a practiced shuffle and the baby quieted, burying her face into her mother’s chest.  “Billy,” Phyllis whispered, “she’ll learn to love you.  It’s just new right now…that’s all.”

“I know.” He smiled.  “She doesn’t remember anything either.  We’re both meeting each other for the first time.”

Phyllis nodded, gesturing over to the swing.  “She loves the swing,” she said smiling, “If we’re lucky, you’ll get to hear that sweet little laugh.”

Billy held the swing still as he watched Phyllis settle Grace into the harness.  He’d missed so much time with his daughter.  He didn’t want to miss anymore.

~

Phyllis walked back into the living room, removing the burp cloth from her shoulder.  She smiled at Billy as he looked up at her with wide eyes.  “Well, you’ve had about four hours of Grace—you ready to take over for me?”

“What?” He stood, his breath catching in his throat.

“I’m kidding,” she giggled.  “I just meant you seem a bit overwhelmed by all this.”  She paused, studying his face.  “You don’t have to stay, you know.  I know this must be kind of crazy for you.  We don’t have to do everything at once.  You can see her whenever you want and I’m not going anywhere.”

“Actually,” he said quietly, “If it’s okay, I’d kind of like to see that video now.”

“Oh, the uh…the video of her birth?”

“Yeah…”  He saw the look on her face, the way her eyes shifted slightly as he’d said the words, “Unless you’ve changed your mind.  I don’t have to watch it..”

“No..No.  You’re welcome to see it.  I just…It’s…” She swallowed, trying to force herself not to feel what she did.  She wanted to be strong, to be content with what they had in the moment, but she couldn’t help but wondering what might have been different….

“Phyllis?” Billy said quizzically.

“I’ll get the video,” she said quickly, moving to walk towards the shelf.  She stopped when she felt his hand on her arm.

“Forget the video for a minute.”  His words were serious as he pulled her back in front of him.  “What’s going on?  What aren’t you saying?  You said we could talk about anything, so why are you holding out on me now?”

“Damn,” she hissed under her breath as the tear crept down her cheek.  “I just…Watching the videos and looking the pictures and telling the stories…It just reminds me of everything that we lost and when I think about the fact that even one day could have been given back to us because of….” She took another breath… “Because of Ronan.  I’m just angry.  That’s all.  I’m really angry.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 22

“You didn’t have to follow me back,” she said softly as she walked up to the door, “And you certainly didn’t have to walk me to the door.”  She turned to face him.  It was so strange to be in this position with him.  To her, nothing had changed.  Time had passed, but the feelings were still there perhaps even stronger than they’d been before.  It would seem so natural to reach up and touch his face, to lean in and softly kiss him…

“It’s no problem, really.  I just wanted to make sure you got home okay.”  He looked at her, her eyes shining up at him.  Looking down at her, he couldn’t help but smile.

“What is it?” she asked softly, her words floating through the air like music.

He sighed.  “I may not remember, but I can tell by the way you look at me…we were good…we were real?”

Tears stung her eyes as she heard him say the words, words it had taken her far too long to admit and even longer to finally say.  “Yes,” she whispered, “we were very real…you were everything to me and I like to think I was everything to you too.  If you hadn’t had the accident, we were going to get married.  We’d talked about it, but you insisted that we couldn’t yet because I would be expecting the proposal and you had to find a way to surprise me.  You were always romantic like that.”

It was amazing to him to watch her as she talked about him this way.  It was as if she was recounting some beautiful movie, but the scenes were actual moments from his life.  “Look,” he said softly, hesitating a little, “If uh..if you’re not doing anything…I know you said Grace is gonna stay with the sitter tonight…maybe you could tell me a little more about the things we did or show me some pictures.”  He stopped, the surprise on her face startling him.  “Unless you think it’s too soon…I can come back another day…”

“No..No..not at all.  I’d love it if you’d come in.  Um..unless you think it’s too soon.”

Billy shook his head, following her inside.

“I didn’t really get a chance to say it earlier, but please excuse the mess,” she said with a smile.  “It’s a little crazy with a baby in such tight quarters.”

“I’m sure,” he nodded.  “Why uh…why are you in a hotel…Did we not have a house?”

She stopped, turning to face him.  “No, we did…I just…I couldn’t stay there after you…well, after the accident.  Actually, I left town for a while.  I took a job in Chicago and I moved there to try and put some distance between me and the memories.”

“Did it work?” There was something about her, something that drew him.  Though she was still very new to him in a way, there was a part of her that felt familiar and comfortable.

“No,” she whispered.  “Because you were in here.”  She placed her hand over her heart.  “And everywhere I went, I just took you with me.” She took a breath, sensing the awkwardness of the moment, “And then of course there was Grace, who was in here…” She placed her hand on her now-flat stomach.

She stooped down to grab a cloth album.  “There’s not a ton of pictures in here, but I do have some videos if you’d like to see them.  This is the baby book I’ve been putting together for her.”

Billy opened the cover, flipping page by page slowly, his eyes roaming over footprints and hospital photos. “She’s how old now?”

Phyllis smiled.  “A little over five months…it goes by so fast.  It’s like you blink and she’s doing all these things that she couldn’t do yesterday.”  She stopped herself, realizing how it must feel to him, realizing he’s missed so much. “She’s gonna be crazy about you,” she whispered, touching his arm softly.  “I can’t wait for you to meet her.”

“Me too,” he managed, his voice raspy with emotion.

“The video,” she said quickly, standing up and moving to the shelf.  “I almost forgot.”

“Actually,” he said softly, reaching out and grabbing her arm, “Would it be alright if we waited on that.  I’m not sure I can handle that right now.”

“Sure,” she nodded, sitting down on the end of the bed beside him.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “I’ve been so busy thinking about how hard this must be for me that I really haven’t considered how it must feel to you.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he said looking up at her.  “I survive an accident that, by all rights, should have killed me.  I come home and find out I have a beautiful girlfriend and a healthy baby girl.  I’ve won the lottery.  I just feel like you and Grace—you’ve drawn the short straw.”

“Don’t you say that!”  her words came out quickly as her eyes flashed in anger.  The shock on his face jolted her back to reality and she pulled back, calming herself before she spoke again.  “Sorry,” she whispered.  “I just…I don’t ever want you to feel that I’m anything but grateful to have you back.  Yes, it’s been difficult to know that you don’t remember, but I have to believe that the memories will come back.”

“And if they don’t?”  It was the question he’d wanted to ask since the moment he’d laid eyes on her, but he’d been afraid to.  Taking advantage of his certain burst of courage seemed to be the only sensible thing to do.

“I don’t know,” she admitted.  “We’ll figure something out.”  She looked at him.  “Is there anything else you remember?  Anything at all?”

“I don’t even know if this will make sense to you,” he sighed. “You know that show…I think it’s called something Abbey..”

Phyllis nodded.  “You mean Downton Abbey?”

“That’s the one,” he nodded.  “Well, I have this weird, fuzzy memory of being in a room in a house kind of like the ones they have in that show.  I can’t see anything..it’s dark..and there’s the sound like rain pouring down, but I can’t see the rain.”

Phyllis stared at him, her breath catching in her throat.  “Anything else?”  She tried not to jump to conclusions, trying desperately not to get her hopes up too high.

“A smell,” he said quietly, closing his eyes to try and remember more, “like a burning…and heat…like the smell of burning..”

He opened his eyes to see tears streaming down her cheeks.  “What?” he breathed.  “What’s the matter?”

She smiled through her tears and brushed them away from her face.  “That smell was a fire in the fireplace.  There was a thunderstorm that knocked out all the power and it was cold so we found an old rocking chair that we used for firewood.”  She looked into his eyes as she continued to talk.  “It was raining and thundering and the wind was blowing so hard that it blew a tree down that blocked the driveway so we couldn’t leave and that house you’re describing….that’s the Chancellor mansion…that’s where we lived.  That was our home.”

Billy nodded slowly.  “Wow,” he breathed.  “That’s a weird night to remember..I guess I was hoping for something more meaningful than that.”  He stopped speaking as he saw her eyes flash.

“That’s not how the story ends,” she whispered.

“How did it end?”

She leaned in close to him, questioning her choices all the way, but throwing all caution to the wind as she softly pressed her lips to his.  “Like that,” she said softly, as she pulled away.  “That was the first night you kissed me.”

She half expected him to run, but instead she leaned into his hand as it lightly stroked her cheek.  “Oh,” he breathed, his eyes never once leaving hers, “It’s got to be damn hard to forget something like that.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 21

She jumped up quickly as she heard movement behind her.

“Sorry.”  Billy held up his hands as he approached her slowly.  “I didn’t mean to scare you.  I just wanted to see if you were okay…the way you ran out of there…”

Phyllis shook her head.  “The truth?” She sighed, “No.  I’m not okay and I don’t know why I came here, but it’s where I’ve come the last year when I needed clarity or support or to feel closer to him.”  She glanced up at him.. “or you.”

Billy nodded, kneeling down on the ground beside her.  “This is weird.”

There was silence for a moment and she laughed a bit, laughing harder as he looked over at her, his eyes widening a bit.  “I’m sorry,” she muttered, “that’s just the most honest thing I’ve heard in a while.  Yeah, this is definitely weird…I can’t imagine how it would feel to look at your own headstone.  Not many people get a chance to do that.”

“No.” He smiled as he glanced over at her.  “I guess you’re right about that.  It’s a small club.  Is there video of the funeral?  I’d like to see that?” He stopped, hesitating as her face grew serious.  “Hey,” he whispered, “I’m sorry…that was too far.  I was just trying to lighten things up.  I didn’t mean to..”

“It’s not that,” she said softly, “It’s just…videos..there are some you’d probably like to see.  Grace’s birth and her christening..I think there’s even some videos of the baby showers…”

“Yeah.  I’d like to see all of that.”  Silence settled over them again.  He looked at the stone, marveling at the strangeness of seeing his name above a date of death.  When he looked back at her, he saw her eyes fixed on his.  “What is it?” he asked softly.

“It’s just strange.  The past year whenever I wanted to talk to you, I’d come here and now I’m here and I’m actually talking to you, but you…you’re….”  She couldn’t continue, the words too painful to even say.  She turned her head, not wanting him to see her cry.  He’d seen enough of that already.

Billy sat helplessly, not sure of what to do.  He extended his hand, placing it gently on her shoulder, feeling her body tense immediately.  Her head turned slowly towards him, her eyes staring into his.  “You don’t have to do that,” he said softly.  “I’m sorry that this is hurting you.  I don’t know how to make it better.  I wish I did, but you don’t have to pretend it’s not difficult for you.  I know it is.”

She nodded.  “I guess it’s just…after you died…” She shook her head, “After we thought you died, I would dream at night about someone coming to me and telling me that it had all been a mistake.  I would imagine what it would be like when I would see you again and I held onto that for a long time.  I never felt you leave me and then, when I found out I was pregnant, I thought maybe that was why.  At first I was terrified.  I was afraid that every time I looked at our baby I would be devastated all over again, but then I realized that baby was the only part of you I had left and that as long as that baby was here, a little part of you would always be with me.  That’s what kept me going.  Grace was the only reason I survived most days.  And even though she filled a huge hole inside of me, I still had that dream that you would come back and I could wrap my arms around you and hold you and remember what it felt like to be close to you.  And now, the dream has come true, but it isn’t at all like it’s supposed to be….”

He shook his head, a little in awe of how she could put her feelings into words so easily.  “I don’t what to say except I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I really am.  I wish I remembered.  It sounds like we were happy and I wish I could remember everything you’re talking about.  I wish I could be the person you’ve been waiting for. I can’t make myself remember, but I can do one thing…”

He stood, taking her hands in his and pulling her up to stand next to him.  He could see the confusion and hesitation in her eyes as she watched him.  “Come here,” he said softly as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer to him.  He could feel her hesitation, her stress, her almost trepidation as she stood tense in his arms, but as he gently coaxed her head to rest against his shoulder, he felt the release.  “It’s alright,” he whispered, as he felt her back shake with a sob.  “It’s alright.”

There were no memories of their life together, but some things simply felt natural and this was one of them.  He allowed his head to rest against hers as he drew in a breath, the smell of her shampoo and….

“That smell…”  He pulled away quickly, one hand on each of her shoulders.

“What?” she breathed, tears still soaking her cheeks.

“Scarlett Mist,” he said excitedly, a smile forming on his face.  “Scarlett Mist, right?  That’s what you’re wearing?”

Her eyes sparkled as she looked at him.  “Yes, that’s right.  Do you remember that?  You remember that’s the perfume I wear?”

“Not exactly.”  He stopped, taking a breath and calming himself.  It was one thing to get ahead of himself and get overly excited.  It was quite another to get her hopes up and then send them crashing down again.  She’d been through enough.  “When I was in the hospital, one of the nurses had this perfume and when I smelled it, I remembered it.  I knew I’d smelled it before.  I remembered it and I knew it was important. Do you wear it a lot?”

She smiled up at him, her eyes now brighter than he’d ever seen them.  “Yeah. Actually, it’s a scent that Jack, your brother, developed for me.  I wear it all the time..every day.  You used to love it.  You remembered it?” Tears formed in her eyes again and she began to raise her hand to brush them away.”

His hand touched her face first, his fingertips slowly brushing away the tear.  “I did,” he said softly.  “I remembered the perfume and I remembered that I missed it.”

 

 

Love Lost pt 20

“Phyllis?” Ronan stood at the door, thankful it still remained partially open, but not stupid enough to step inside.  “Phyllis, please—can you just give me a minute to try and explain?”

He heard movement inside and stepped back.  She stood at the door, tears still streaming down her face.  “I don’t know how the hell you think you could possible explain something like this.”

“You have every right to be angry with me,” Ronan said softly.

“Really?  You’re going to stand here and try to justify my anger now?  As if I needed your approval?”

“No,” he sighed, “that’s not what I meant…I just.. God,” he slammed his hand into the wall, and looked back at her, tears now filling his own eyes.  “It was a horrible thing that I did but I want you to understand that I felt terrible about it.  Why do you think I kept pulling away from you?”

She paused for a moment.  “So what?  You want me to give you a pass because you had the decency to not sleep with me.”

“That’s not what I’m saying.  I just mean…it’s not like I didn’t have guilt over this.  It was eating me up knowing how much pain you were in, but I just kept thinking about how much pain you’d be in if he were back here.  He doesn’t remember you, Phyllis.  He doesn’t remember your life, your relationship, all the memories that you have—the ones that have gotten you through your loss—they don’t exist to him.”  He watched as the words hit her and her face crumbled.  “I’m sorry.  I don’t want to hurt you, but you aren’t to him what he is to you.  I just wanted to spare you that.  I didn’t want to watch you lose him again.”

Phyllis reached up, wiping her tears from her face.  “That isn’t your call.  You don’t know how I would feel about this.  And what about Grace?”  She gripped her chest as she thought of her daughter.  “Ronan, she’s his daughter.  Were you really okay with never telling her that her father was alive?”

“No..No of course not, but this is new to me too, Phyllis…and if you want me to be honest with you, it felt so good to be close to you again and Grace is amazing.  I thought maybe you and I could have something real and then I…”

Her eyes widened, “So you’d just step right in and then who needs Billy, right?”

“No.  Damn it.  None of this is right.  You don’t understand.”

Phyllis took a step towards him, her eyes now shining with tears.  “I’ll tell you what I’m absolutely sure of,” she said, her voice shaking in anger, “I’m sure that you know where Billy is right now, or at the very least, you have a pretty good idea of how to contact him, so every moment I’m spending here screaming at you is a minute I could be spending with the man I love.”

Ronan shook his head.  “Alright,” he whispered.  “I’ll find him.  I swear to you.  I’ll find him and I’ll bring him back to you and then I’m going to fix this…I don’t know how, but I’m going to fix this.”

~

Ronan drove slowly, his eyes roaming the streets.  This was insane.  He couldn’t imagine Billy would be walking down the street in the middle of the night, but he had to do something.  He had to try and find him.  He owed Phyllis that much.  The sound of his phone ringing brought instant relief and he glanced down to see a number he didn’t recognize.  Quickly, he brought the phone to his ear.  “Hello,” he said anxiously.

“Ronan?”  Billy struggled to stay calm.  He’d all but verbally accosted Ashley on the phone even though she’d sworn Ronan hadn’t given her any more details—only that it was an emergency and that he needed him to call him at this number as soon as possible.  “It’s Billy.  I got your message.  Ashley said it was important.  Is something wrong?”  It felt weird to be worried about people you didn’t know, but somehow he felt he should know her and then there was his daughter.  Memories or not, he needed to know that she was alright.

The familiar pang of guilt welled up inside him again.  He hadn’t considered how the message would sound to Billy. “Yeah, Yeah.  I’m sorry about that, man.  I didn’t mean to worry you.  Everyone’s fine.  It’s just…”  He paused.  “Look, I know you’re probably gonna be a bit pissed at me and it sure as  hell wasn’t my place to do it but, Phyllis knows you’re alive.  She knows you’re in town.”

Billy let out a long breath.  “Yeah,” he sighed.  “I uh…I saw her in the park this afternoon.  I was afraid she might have figured it out.”

“Well, to be honest.  She was pretty sure she was hallucinating.  In fact, she called me over to her place insisting that she was going crazy and I almost managed to convince her she was just grieving, but I just couldn’t do it.  She misses you too much.  I can’t watch her suffer like this and even if you don’t know her—even if you don’t remember anything about her or your life together, it will mean something to her to just see you, to know you’re alive, to know you’re alright.”

“She wants to see me?”  Billy took a seat on the edge of the small bed.  In his mind, he’d expected this would come eventually, but never this soon.

“Yeah, she does.  I’d like to come pick you up from wherever you are and bring you to her place.  Can we do that?”  Ronan waited, hearing nothing on the end of the line.  “Billy?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” Billy finally whispered.  “Yeah, we can do that.”

~

Ronan stepped up to the door, looking back over his shoulder and waiting for Billy to join him.  “You okay?” he asked as he clasped his hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t know,” Billy admitted.  “There’s not exactly a game plan for this.  I don’t know what to say to her.”  He looked up at Ronan.  “I don’t want to hurt her.”

Ronan shook his head.  “I wish I knew what to tell you..but I don’t…”

Suddenly the door swung open and Phyllis stood in the doorway.  “Ronan,” she whispered, “I thought I heard your voice.  Listen, I was thinking about this…maybe it’s too soon..maybe Billy would rather come in his own time.  Maybe he doesn’t want to see me or…”  She stopped talking, realizing for the first time that Ronan hadn’t said and word and instead simply stared at her.  “What’s wrong?” she said quietly.

He stepped to the side, saying nothing as he watched her eyes widen and almost immediately fill with tears.  Her hand flew to her mouth to silence the scream that threatened to alert the entire building.

“Why don’t we step inside,” Ronan said quietly, taking her shoulders and gently easing her inside the room.  He looked back at Billy and gestured for him to follow.

~

“Here you go.”  She took the glass of water and struggled to hold it in her trembling hands.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered, forcing herself to look away.  “I know you must think I’m insane.  I’m just staring at you, but…”  Her voice broke.  “God, Billy, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”  She stepped closer to him, her hand reaching up to touch his face but, after catching the look in his eye, drawing back.  “I’m sorry,” she said again, tears again streaking down her cheeks.  “Ronan told me that you don’t remember.  I don’t mean to push.”

“It’s okay.”  Billy forced a smile as he looked at her.  “I’d really like to remember.  I want to remember.  I just…”

Phyllis looked down at her dress, smoothing the front of it before looking back up at him.  “This was your favorite,” she said quietly.  “You said it brought out the color of my eyes.”  Her voice shook as she said the words, desperate to see some flicker of recognition on his face but instead seeing a blank stare intertwined with basic compassion.  He felt sorry for her, just as he’d feel for anyone else.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.  “I really am.  It’s a beautiful dress.  You have beautiful eyes.  You’re beautiful.  I just….I don’t…..”  He stopped talking, his eyes falling on a picture that sat behind her.  “Is that?”  He walked over, pointing to a framed photo.  He picked it up, holding it close to him.  “Grace, right?”

She closed her eyes, trying uselessly not to cry.  “Yes,” she managed, sighing in frustration as she felt fresh tears escape.  “That’s your daughter.  That’s Grace.”

“Is she here?”

“No.  She’s…she’s actually with the sitter tonight.  You can meet her tomorrow.  You’ll love her.  She looks so much like you.  Remember how you used to say that you hoped…”  She stopped, realizing that he remembered noting of their time together.  Every memory, every touch, every word he’d ever said to her was now a completely one-sided story that he might never again share with her.  Her heart broke as she looked up at him.  To her, he was the man she loved with all her heart.  To him, she was a stranger.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t…I can’t stay here,” she whispered.  She grabbed her coat, throwing it on as she headed towards the door.  Gripping her purse in her hands she headed out the door.

Ronan looked up, his eyes falling on Billy.

“I don’t know what to do,” Billy said quietly.  “I hate doing this to her.  She wants me to remember so badly and I just don’t.  I can’t.”

“I know one thing,” Ronan said sternly.  “You need to go after her.  You might not remember her, but I’ll tell you from experience…that’s not a woman you let walk out of your life.”

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.”

 

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.”