She was drifting, her consciousness floating in that wonderful place somewhere between being asleep and awake. The feel of the cool sheets beneath her bare skin gave her a more tangible grasp on reality and she smiled as she realized this was no dream. Last night hadn’t been something she’d imagined, even if she had dreamed of it many times before. Last night had been real. The smile grew wider as she drew in a deep breath and stretched out her arm, searching for the warmth of his body.
Her arm found nothing and her eyes opened slowly, almost afraid to confirm her suspicions. She was alone. No one lay beside her in the bed. She sat up quickly, pulling the covers up close to her.
“Yeah,” he called out immediately, alarmed by the tense tone of her voice. He stepped into the room, pushing the room service cart. “What’s the matter?”
Relief flooded her body and the air left her lungs in a deep sigh as she reached out to him. His warm hands took hers just before he pulled her into his arms, his lips immediately pressing against her forehead.
“You ok?” he asked gently, looking down at her after they sat still for a moment.
“Yeah,” she whispered, feeling a little silly at her overreaction. “It’s just I woke up and you weren’t here. I thought maybe I’d imagined the whole thing.” She looked away, feeling even more embarrassed to hear the words out loud. She sounded needy and desperate—two things she’d made a point to never be. Her entire life she’d prided herself on being strong and independent and here she was—admitting how much she needed someone in her life.
She felt his hands on her face, his fingers gently turning her chin back toward him. “Don’t look away from me,” he commanded softly. “You know you don’t always have to be brave and strong and stoic, right? You’re allowed to need me sometimes? You’re allowed to have feelings, to have weaknesses, to be vulnerable?”
Phyllis smiled, the thought of it making her a bit uncomfortable. “You sure about that? I’ve never heard that part of the speech.”
“Well you’re hearing it now.” He pulled her tighter against him. “I formed my opinion of you a long time ago. No one could have gone though everything you’ve been through in the last few years unless they were tough as nails.” His eyes stared into hers. “I know how strong you are. You don’t have to keep proving it to me. I don’t want you to feel like you have to be some version of yourself…you can be whoever you want to be. You can feel whatever you feel.” He paused for a moment, allowing her to consider the words.
“I guess I’m kind of scared.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
She lay back on the bed, smiling as he lay back beside her and wrapped his arms around her. There was something about being next to him—something that always made her feel more at peace. “You know today is it, right?”
Billy nodded. “So that’s what this is about?”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it?” At first it had been utter perfection, but as each day passed, they were one day closer to this moment.
“What exactly do you think is gonna happen, huh? You think this is going to change something?”
“Come on, Billy.” She pulled herself up and out of his arms, swinging her legs off the bed and reaching for a robe. Wrapping it around her, she stood, walking over to the balcony doors and opening it slightly. The sea air was warm as it wafted into the room.
Billy sighed, pulling himself off the bed as well and following her over to the door. He felt her body lean back against his as he walked behind her and they stood for a moment just admiring the view. “Things only change if we let it,” he whispered. “We just won’t let it.”
“Honestly, Billy. Aren’t you tired? I really think it would be better to do this another night? Maybe next week?” She shot him a look with hopeful eyes as she watched him bring in the last of the luggage.
“You aren’t tired,” he smiled, pausing to give her a quick kiss on the lips, “And you’re not getting out of this. Remember what we promised.”
Phyllis sighed. “Yes. I do remember what we promised. We promised not to let coming back to Genoa City change anything. We promised to put our happiness and our relationship first and, in the interest of that promise, I would like to suggest that walking into the Athletic Club together tonight is a sure fire way to disrupt the peace and happiness bubble we’ve been living in.”
Billy nodded slowly, his face a little more serious.
“What?” Phyllis said, slowly, watching his expression. “Billy? What is it? I know that face. That face is not a good face.”
He took her hand and slowly led her to the sofa. “Why don’t you come sit down over here with me for a second?”
“Billy—What have you done?”
“Don’t get all worked up.” He smiled sweetly at her, recognizing how worked up she already was. “It’s just…it’s about dinner.”
“What about it?”
“Well, I know I told you I wanted us to go to the Club tonight…kind of a rip off the band-aid kind of thing. Get the first public appearance over with…”
Phyllis nodded, her mind still reeling over the absurd suggestion, “Right and I tried to talk you out of the insane idea, but you are hell bent on being the stubborn one in this relationship.”
“Right, and I just thought since we’re doing, we might as well do it right.”
“I don’t follow. I probably don’t want to follow, but seriously I’m lost here.”
“My mother has been after me for weeks to have dinner with her, so I kind of called her and told her I’d meet her and Colin for dinner and that I was bringing a woman I’d been seeing.”
“You aren’t serious. You cannot be serious.” She stood, immediately beginning to pace the floor.
“Hey, wait…just think about it for a minute. The plan actually has merit.” He followed her step for step, trying to stay in front of her to check her expression. “We’ll have her in public so she can’t have a complete meltdown. You know how worried she is about bad publicity and keeping up appearances.”
“That won’t matter, Billy because she’s going to have a stroke or a heart attack or worse. She may die…right on the spot. We’re going to be having dinner with a corpse.”
“Don’t you think you’re being a bit dramatic?” He grabbed her shoulders gently, looking into her eyes. “Look, I’m doing this for us. I want to get everything out in the open. I want to show my mother, my brother, the entire town how much I love you. I want them to know that nothing they say and nothing they think is going to impact the way we live our lives. I want them to see that we’re not going to be ashamed of our feelings, that we’re not going to hide. Isn’t that what you want too?”
She sighed. He was right. She wasn’t hiding, not from anyone—certainly not from Jill. Not anymore. “What time are we meeting them?” she said with a smile. “I’ve got to find a dress.”
Billy watched her as she walked through the doors, the skin tight black dress certainly not meant for fading into the background.
She turned around to face him and smiled. “What?” she cooed, knowing all too well that he’d been staring at her.
“Just looking at you,” he smiled, “I’m gonna guess by your choice of dress that you’re no longer worried about what everyone is going to say when they see us together.” He dropped his head, his lips meeting hers for a moment.
“Well, I figured if they’re gonna get a show, it might as well be one worth watching.” She took his hand in hers, squeezing it lightly.
Billy glanced down, feeling the ring press into his hand. “I was afraid you might take it off,” he whispered, bringing her hand to his lips.
“Not a chance,” she smiled. “I want everyone to know how happy we are…especially your mother.”
“Well, here she comes,” he hissed through a fake smile.
The smile on Jill’s face faded immediately as her eyes fell on Phyllis.
“What’s she doing here?” Jill turned to Billy, completely ignoring Phyllis’ presence.
“Her name is Phyllis and she’s here as my date. I told you I was bringing the woman I’m seeing and I did. Phyllis and I are together.” He held her hand out towards her. “We’re going to get married.”
“The hell you are,” Jill spat. She whirled towards Phyllis. “I will not allow you to ruin my son’s life this way.”
Phyllis started to speak, but Billy interrupted. “Actually Mother, you don’t have a say in it. Phyllis is going to be a part of my life and you can accept that and continue to be a part of our life or you can choose to continue to be bitter and angry.”
Jill stared at him, her eyes shining with tears. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that if you can’t accept my relationship with Phyllis and treat her and us with respect, you don’t need to insinuate yourself in my life or our lives anymore.”
“I am your Mother, Billy. I love you. I want what’s best for you.”
“If that’s true, Mom…then you’ll be happy, because this..” He held up their clasped hands, “this is what’s best for me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have dinner plans. You’re welcome to join us, if you’d like.”
Phyllis walked slowly beside Billy over to the table. Colin nodded politely as he stood up and joined Jill over by the door.
“Billy,” Phyllis began. “Are you sure this is the way you want to leave things with your Mom?”
He smiled at her across the table. “I’ve never been more sure of anything,” he said quietly. “My entire life I’ve been looking for approval, from my mother, from my brother. I wanted acceptance from my family and I’ve worked like hell to try and felt like I was worth it. I’ve done what I thought was right and ended up right back where I’ve started. I’ve screwed up more than a couple times and vowed to do it better the next time. I’ve jumped through all the different hoops before finally realizing that I don’t need all that.”
He took her hand in his, a genuine smile spreading across his face. It was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. “I don’t need my mother to approve. I don’t need my brother to tell me my choices are ok. I don’t need some business to be profitable to prove that I’m successful. That’s not the kind of success I want. You’re what I want. This is what I want. I want a home and a family and a life. I want someone that knows me and accepts me with all my crap. I want to know that at the end of the day, whatever happens will be okay because I have someone that understands, someone that will live this life with me.”
“I sure hope you’re talking about me,” she giggled.
“It’s always you,” he smiled. “I know you were worried about coming back to town and about facing everybody, but sitting here with you right here….I don’t see anyone else. Anywhere we’re together, we’ll always create our own private paradise.”