Emily and Lizzie locked eyes, neither looking at the other with animosity. The fact was, they were too emotionally exhausted to hate each other right now.
“My day hasn’t been exactly stellar either,” Emily said evenly. Lizzie sighed.
“I guess you think that’s my fault.”
Emily walked over to the patio.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Lizzie, but my friendship with Lucky is messed up enough without your help.”
“Friendship, huh?” Lizzie rolled the word around her mouth. “Are you still calling it that?”
Ignoring her, Emily pulled out a chair and sat down heavily.
“Why do you ....” she stopped, not caring to get into Lizzie’s obnoxious nature. She took a deep breath. “You told him you saw me with Todd Patterson.”
Lizzie was too burnt out to deny it. What did it matter anyway? She’d just add Emily to the growing list of people who wanted to see her drawn and quartered. She and Lucky could make a date of it.
“So?” she asked belligerently.
“So, I didn’t,” Emily said, a bit of annoyance creeping into her voice.
“It’s not like he believed me,” she said heavily, pulling her cigarettes out of the pocket of her jacket. “There’s no way his sainted Emily would do anything like that.”
His? Emily cleared her throat.
“What made you think he didn’t believe you?”
Lizzie eyed her rival carefully. She lit her cigarette and took a long drag, sucking the carcinogenic smoke deep into her lungs, willing it to infect her.
“Uh, probably the fact that he told me I was out of my mind.” She exhaled heavily, blowing the smoke into Emily’s face. Emily didn’t even wince.
“Well, he changed his mind then,” she muttered, mostly to herself.
Lizzie raised her eyebrows. That should be good news, but she had a hard time caring. She didn’t trust whatever misunderstanding these two were dealing with this time to last long. And once it was over, Lucky would know she was a liar.
“He’ll come to his senses,” she muttered. “Or you will. You aren’t very good at this staying mad at each other stuff.”
Emily wished she could believe that. The relationship felt pretty dead to her.
“So,” she said, bitterly. “Do you feel this need to ruin my life because of Lucky, or does the fact that I’m friends with your sister enter into it as well?”
Lizzie looked momentarily shocked at her candor. The detached bored look sunk back into her eyes after a moment, however.
“Yeah, Emily. Your life is pretty rotten, isn’t it?”
Emily rolled her eyes.
“I never did anything to you,” she said, emptily.
“No, you’ve been a little princess,” she muttered.
“There you go again!” Emily shook her head. “You decided stuff about me without ever giving me a chance to defend myself. You’ve put words in my mouth, decided I had agendas that never even occurred to me... I don’t get it.”
Emily sighed heavily.
“I get the Lucky part. I’m not totally dense.”
Lizzie struggled to stay detached from the subject of conversation.
“Well, that doesn’t matter now, does it?” she said, a slight tremor coming into her voice. “He’s finished with me.”
Emily felt her anger heating up again.
“I totally do not need this in my life.“
Lizzie took another drag off her cigarette, exhaling .
“No, you just flew back from Italy and took the only thing in my life that mattered to me away.”
A look of shock registered on Emily’s face.
“I was never out to take Lucky away from you.”
“Oh, right. The second he laid eyes on you that day on the dock, it was ‘See ya later, Lizzie.’”
Emily frowned. She had been about to protest that there was no way for Lucky to be the most important thing in her life, but stopped. She knew how it felt when Lucky pulled one of his disappearing acts.
“Sensitivity isn’t Lucky’s strong suit,” she murmured.
“Right,” Lizzie scoffed. “Because he’s been such a jerk with you, right? Chasing after you every time you take off on him, getting into fist fights with his own brother because he can’t stand seeing you with him.....”
“Lucky has hated Nikolas from the first time they laid eyes on each other,” Emily protested. “That has nothing to do with me.”
Lizzie searched Emily’s face incredulously.
“You really don’t know, do you?”
Lizzie leaned across the table.
“Lucky is out of his mind crazy about you,” she hissed. “He practically admitted it to me today. Before you came back, his whole world was my sister. I don't think he even talks to her anymore.”
“You're out of your mind.”
Lizzie shook her head.
“You must have the same script writer. Come on, Emily. Open your eyes!”
Emily set her jaw stubbornly.
“You don’t know anything about Lucky and I,” she said, angrily. “You never have, you’ve just tried to make trouble between us from day one. Maybe you think something is going on, because you felt threatened, but believe me, you’re totally wrong.”
Lizzie leaned her head against her hand, and looked at Emily, aggravated.
“I don’t believe it. All this time I thought this wide-eyed innocent thing was an act.” she muttered. Emily glared at her.
“We are friends,” she said, her voice shaking. “Or at least we were, at one time. If you can’t understand why a friendship would be this important to someone, then I really do feel sorry for you.”
Lizzie turned away, sharply. She didn’t get this girl at all. She was so obviously in love with the boy, who was so obviously in love with her. Did they actually think they were just after friendship? It was almost funny, if it didn’t make her feel completely pathetic and alone.
“Think about it, Emily,” she muttered. “Does he show up at your house unannounced, just because he feels like it? Does he touch you or hug you whenever he has an excuse? Does he stand just a little too close to you whenever he talks to you?”
Emily looked physically ill. Lizzie knew immediately she must have hit the nail on the head. If there was any lingering doubt about what was going on with these two, it had just vanished.
“You’re... crazy,” Emily said slowly. Lizzie looked away, trying to blink back the tears that had sprung to her eyes.
“Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same way,” she forced a laugh.
“You’ll have to excuse me if I don’t exactly rush to believe you.”
Lizzie shook her head, a bitter expression on her face.
“Of course not. God, you two were made for each other.”
Emily made a face.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“For starters?” Lizzie took another drag off her cigarette. “Neither of you pay much attention, do you? I mean, he thinks you just want to be friends, you think he just wants to be friends...” she put a hand to her head. “God, I probably just did you a big favor.”
Emily’s stomach tightened until she could barely breath, letting all the emotions that had been stewing inside seep into her blood stream. She felt completely overwhelmed. Her face crumpled and she bent over, tears falling from her eyes in large drops. Her breathing came in short violent gasps that shook her whole body. Lizzie dropped her cigarette in shock.
“Emily?” she ventured, her voice shaky. Emily turned away from her, and stumbled out of the chair. She took a few steps, then sunk to the ground holding her stomach. Lizzie felt immediately guilty -- an emotion she was not well acquainted with. She’s assumed that Emily was a spoiled little rich girl who Lucky was preoccupied with. Now there was no denying she’d been messing with someone who felt things acutely. She felt a sudden kinship with the girl. There was something about pain that was universal. Lizzie’s own throat tightened on her. She forced herself to stand up and walked hesitantly over to her.
“Are you ok?”
Emily shook her head violently.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she choked.
Lizzie knelt down in the grass beside her.
Emily wiped at her eyes, fiercely, hating herself for breaking down this violently in front of Lizzie.
“No matter what I do, people only think of me the way they’ve already decided to.” Emily said, looking at Lizzie angrily. “I can’t do anything about it. You just did it, too. I’m just the spoiled little rich kid, or I’m the fragile basket case who took too much heroin. Do you have any idea what that’s like?”
Lizzie felt tears spring to her own eyes again.
“I’m Sarah Webber’s sister,” she said quietly. Emily turned to her, and their eyes met, sharing a single moment of understanding.
Their epiphany was interrupted by Sarah coming out onto the porch calling for her sister. She stopped short when she spotted the two girls kneeling in the grass.
“Emily!” she exclaimed with surprise. “I thought you were having diner with Nikolas tonight.”
Emily didn’t have the energy to pretend she cared about that event.
“Oh, right,” she said flatly. She peered at her watch. It was almost five-thirty, and the sun was very nearly down. She was going to be late. She turned to Lizzie uncomfortably. “I’ll see you at school.” She stood up, and bowed her head, muttering something to Sarah as she passed her. Sarah watched her friend walk down the driveway, still shocked. What could Lizzie and Emily have to talk about? She turned her attention to her sister.
“What was that about?”
* * * *
Lucky heard the music before he even opened the door. His Dad must be in one of his moods again. Occasionally -- very occasionally -- his father would stop obsessing about the Cassadines and his gleeful dismemberment of their lives, and would be forced to sit and reflect on the fact that he was man who had signed up for family life, and now found himself living alone in a big house with his son and sister. At times like this, he’d go out and raid a music store, looking for items who could be depressed to, but had no actual connection to Laura. Then he’d take on some impossible project to focus on until he once again felt moved to go and raise some hell. Lucky hoped his Dad wasn’t in the mood to bond or something. He didn’t feel like pretending that this wasn’t one of the worst days of his life, but he didn’t care to explain why, either.
He pushed open the door to find his father sitting at a table, fiddling with the wiring of an extremely old clock radio. Lucky shut the door, catching his father’s attention.
“Hey,” he said, shrugging his jacket off his shoulders, and tossing it unceremoniously over the bannister. His father nodded in response.
“You’re home pretty late,” he observed, his voice strangely detached. Lucky frowned at him. It wasn’t like his father to press for too much information about his whereabouts. “How was your friend?” he asked, looking at him over his glasses. Lucky shrugged, and walked over the couch as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. “Not talking, huh?” Luke put down his screwdriver, much to Lucky’s vexation. “That’s getting to be habit with you,” he said under his breath.
“What’s with you?” Lucky asked, unable to keep the annoyance out of his voice. Luke sighed and leaned back in the chair.
“See, the thing is here, Lucky, is you’ve always made it pretty easy for me to be cool.”
“Sure, Dad,” he said finally. Wherever this was going, he wanted off the train.
“This teen angst thing, for instance, this is new. I used to be able to just sit back and wait for you to tell me what’s going on, and now I have to pretend I don’t care, because you’d obviously tell me if you wanted me to know, right?”
Lucky sighed and sat down on the couch, resting his elbows on his knees. He didn’t have the energy to play any games. He didn’t even have the energy to sulk. He just felt ripped off, and angry and sad.
“We talk,” he muttered, in a lame attempt to divert attention from Emily. “Did you call Mom?”
Luke eyed his son carefully. He didn’t know where the boy had run off to in such a hurry that afternoon, and despite his most valiant efforts, he couldn’t help being curious. He had no idea what was going on. When he’d returned from Switzerland, Bobbie had informed him that Lucky was more than a little hung up on Sarah Webber. This wasn’t a surprise -- subtilty wasn’t one of Lucky’s strong suits. Then that faded, and he’d figured Lucky had moved on to her younger -- and in his opinion, much more interesting -- sister. Again, nothing came of it. He felt like he was missing a piece of the puzzle. Something was sending his son into an emotional tailspin. At first, he’d assumed Lucky’s agitated state was due entirely to his Mother’s extended absence. Now, however, he seemed to have come to grips with it somewhat, and his moods were still moving to extremes. Today, for instance, he’d been energetic and obviously excited about something. Hours later, he came home looking like doom. Looking like doom, but still waiting expectantly for an answer to his question.
“Your mother? No. You wanna phone?”
“Don’t you think we should burn the place down first?” Lucky asked, wryly. Luke narrowed his eyes at him. Cheeky kid. He decided to give him a break though... whatever was going on in this teen melodrama, it was obvious Lucky kept coming in second. That had to be hard on the ego.
“It’s after midnight there. Probably should wait for morning.”
Silence descended on the room. Lucky leaned back on the couch and tried, once again, to figure out what had gone wrong that afternoon. He grasped that the whole drug use accusation had been a bad move, but he’d made mistakes before, and they’d never felt this monumental. It was like the symptoms had led him to a disease this time, and he didn’t know how to proceed. He’d naively thought that he and Emily could just go back to being “pals” again. It was slowly dawning on him that part of the reason they couldn’t go back to that, was because he didn’t want it.
For weeks he’d wished he had some way to get a chance to redeem himself, and twenty-four hours into it, he’d messed up again. He rested his head on the back of the couch, and stared up at the ceiling. How could he have expected this to go any other way? Emily had put up with a lot, and had finally rewarded him with the position of “friend”. Make that “Friend at Arm’s Length”. It was more than he probably deserved, and he didn’t want it. He couldn’t just hang out with her anymore, which seemed to be what she was expecting. He wanted to be close to her, to know what was going on. At this point, he didn’t even care if she hated him, as long as he knew that she was alright.
What bothered him most about the whole drug use fiasco was the fact that he hadn’t been able to let go of it. he’d known that Lizzie was wrong about Emily. But then, the whole time he was with her, he’d felt like he was missing something. Even with everything that had come to light in the past few days, he still felt like Emily was holding something important back. Her sudden exit after everything that happened in the woods still confused him. She didn’t seem entirely comfortable with him, and he wanted that to change. He thought again of Emily’s admission that she didn’t trust him. That stung, even as he saw the reasoning behind it. After all, his relationship with his mother had been pretty much irrevocably changed when Nikolas had shown up.
The stereo made a whirring noise as the CD changer moved on to another song. It felt like the CD had cut in on the middle, the song began so abruptly.
“When the wind is blowing in your face...” a voice growled. Lucky looked over at his father.
“Dylan,” his father told him matter-of-factly. Lucky made a face.
“As in Bob? Since when do you listen to folk?”
Luke gave his son a disapproving look.
“Does this sound like folk?”
Lucky had to admit it didn’t . Actually it sounded like.... well, blues. Piano blues. He listened again.
“I could offer you a warm embrace...”
It was a love song, obviously. This was the kind of song Lucky usually paid no attention to. If he did let it enter his consciousness, it was merely as a matter of curiosity. He wasn’t sure what it was about “love” that continually led those afflicted to write songs and poems about it. His parents were more in love than anyone he’d ever come across in his life, and all he’d heard come out of his father’s mouth was the occasional dirty limerick. Nevertheless, he found himself listening to this one closely.
“When evening’s shattered and the stars appear.... and there is no way to hide your tears.... I could hold you for a million years to make you feel my love.”
Lucky was immediately assaulted with the image of Emily the previous afternoon. He wished their relationship could always be like that. Not that he enjoyed seeing her in pain -- it was more the openness and easiness of their conversation that afternoon. It didn’t feel like she was holding up a wall between them. This song was really getting to him, he had to get out of here. He pulled himself off the couch.
“I know you haven’t made your mind up yet, but I would never do you wrong....”
Well, there’s where Bob had one up on him. That ship had sailed. It was like he was physically incapable of getting things right with her. He was coming to believe that he was a lousy friend. What made it worse was the number of times Emily had given him another chance. How many mistakes do you get to make in one relationship before you get your license revoked?
“I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue.... I’d go crawling down the avenue.... Go to the ends of the earth for you, to make you feel my love.”
Lucky shook his head, and started for the stairs. He was actually attempting to take advice from some dopey love song. About Emily. He’d noticed his brain floating in that direction more than a few times in the past few weeks, but he’d continually pushed the thoughts from his mind. Of course, if they were looking to end the circular nature of this friendship, that was certainly one way to do it... No, he told himself sternly. He was having enough trouble staying on speaking terms with her as it was. He began up the stairs to his room.
“I could make you happy, make your dreams come true. I’d go anywhere you asked me to. There isn’t one thing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love.”
Lucky froze on the stair listening to the words. He couldn’t believe he was relating to these lyrics, but they were hitting a chord in him. This was exactly how he felt about Emily, and he was pretty sure she didn’t realize it. All he wanted to do was make her happy.... though he wasn’t sure he could do it, his track record suggested otherwise, but he wanted the chance. He couldn’t help but feel that he was giving up too easily. Did she really know how much he cared about her? He would do anything if he could guarantee her forgiveness. He’d grovel if he had to, but he couldn’t just let this die because of bruised pride. If Emily wasn’t going to fight for this, then he’d have to do it on his own. If he tried hard enough, maybe he could still turn this around. He grabbed his coat off the bannister.
“Going out?” Luke asked, more than a little confused. By the time it occurred to Lucky that he should have answered the question, he was already out the door.
* * * *
Emily had not been able to concentrate on walking home. Her speed had varied from an almost-jog, to an impossibly slow dawdle. She kept forgetting she had a reason to get home. The whole thing felt very distant and unreal to her. How was she supposed to care about the Cassadines when her life had taken yet another downward plunge? She should never have gone to see Lizzie -- obviously that wasn’t a good idea. She’d felt incredibly bad before, but now, as she considered what Lizzie had said, she was beginning to feel worse. How could she have missed something as major as Lucky liking her back? She couldn’t have, she decided. Lucky might be capable of missing things that were hitting him over the head, but she was a little more on the ball than that.
On the other hand, she remembered, the boy had kissed her.
Emily sighed. She’d never felt this confused in her life. Five hours earlier she was absolutely certain that she and Lucky were finished. Now she found herself plotting how she could try to work things out with him -- again. Lucky was right, this was a circular relationship, and she kept coming up with the same result over and over again. What possessed her to keep doing the identical stuff repeatedly? For some reason, and God knows she had no justification for feeling this way, she believed that Lucky was capable of being a good friend. She must believe it, or she wouldn’t keep going back to him. Maybe, she thought sadly, she just wanted it to believe it.
By some miracle, Emily had finally reached the gates of the family house. The reality of her situation began to dawn on her. It was seven o’clock, right about the time everyone would be sitting down to diner. There was no way she could escape. No one knew where she’d gone, and she hadn’t even thought about telling anyone when she’d left. The fact that Nikolas was going to be there just made things worse. Although it hadn’t been said, she was surely expected to play hostess to him since they were somewhat close in age. Besides that, Nik might think she had taken off because she didn’t want to see him. She sighed heavily. There was no point in obsessing over this. They’d have a hard time competing with the horror that was the rest of her day. She took a deep breath and walked up to the front door, and pushed it open.
The house was eerily quiet. It made her immediately nervous. She’s expected thing to be bad, but the complete silence of the house suggested a bloodbath over h’ors deurves. She pushed the door shut, purposely letting it slam. Nothing. She swallowed hard, and walked tentatively across the foyer to the doorway to the living room. She nearly leapt out of her skin when she found herself face to face with Stefan Cassadine.
“Good evening,” the elder Cassadine spoke calmly, his voice low. She looked over her shoulder, to once again confirm that she was alone.
“Uh, hi,” she said finally. She tried to think of another pleasantry to say, but she could only stare. “Have you seen the rest of my family?” she asked as calmly as she could manage. Stefan placed his brandy snifter down on the table elegantly.
“I believe,” he stated formally. “That they are looking for you.”
Emily’s stomach knotted itself. She was going to get crucified for this.
“Oh,” she said weakly.
“Your parents are with the butler, encircling the neighborhood in their car. My cousin and nephew are with Mr. Ashton, searching the grounds... your grandfather, I believe, is conducting his own investigation.”
“And my grandmother?”
“I believe she is attending to a domestic situation in the kitchen.”
Emily cringed. She spotted a tray of limp spinach hors d’everves on the table. Lila was likely involved in world war three. Emily, once again, became concerned by the silence.
“Oh,” she said again.
“I was to abide here in the event you returned,” Mr. Cassadine looked contemplative a moment, and then, with great effort, he gave her a slight smile. “Which you have.”
Emily shivered. She backed away from him, giving him an equally forced smile.
“I’m just going to go see if I can find Ned...” she said, her voice tense. She turned on her heel, and dashed to the front door, pulling it open and breathing the cold air into her lungs. She suddenly understood all of Lucky’s ominous words about Stefan Cassadine. Sinister didn’t even begin to describe him.
She had barely closed the door behind her when she heard Ned.
“Emily!” Ned’s voice was both relieved and aggravated at her sudden appearance. “Where have you been?”
Behind her cousin, coming around the house, Emily saw Alexis and Nikolas. She locked eyes with Nikolas, and cleared her throat.
“I went to Audrey Hardy’s place,” she said, hoping that wouldn’t raise too many questions. The expressions of the faces of her search party let her know that there was no hope of that. “I lost track of time, I’m sorry.”
“Emily,” Ned said, the picture of patience. “It’s been dark for over an hour.”
She had no explanation for that. She looked at him sheepishly.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured.
“Ok...” Ned said, not knowing what else to say. He looked over at Alexis. “Well, we should give Alan and Monica a call on the car phone,” he said finally. He started up the stairs, Alexis following. She stopped and looked back at Nikolas who was standing in the middle of the drive.
“Are you coming?” Alexis asked. Nikolas nodded.
“In a minute. I think Emily and I are going to get some air for a minute.”
Ned turned and looked at Nikolas who simply stared back at him, confidently. Emily stepped out of the door, and put a hand on Ned’s arm.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
Ned gave her a serious look.
“Alright,” he said, his voice denoting the fact that she had better be right in, or he wouldn’t be able to save her from the wrath that would be waiting for her. She smiled back and him, and he and Alexis finally entered the house, closing the door behind him.
Emily smiled at Nikolas uncomfortably.
“So, imagine meeting you here,” she joked feebly. Nikolas cocked his head to one side.
“You went to see Sarah?”
Emily walked down the stares, heavily.
“It’s a long story,” she said finally. “Are you mad at me?”
Nikolas chuckled slightly.
“Confused. A bit concerned. But no, I’m not mad.”
Emily felt the beginnings of a headache coming on. She had no idea how she was going to get through this evening. She sat down on the steps.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?”
Nikolas looked confused, but dropped onto the stair next to her.
“Figuratively speaking, I assume.”
“I mean, my family is going to kill me. I can’t believe I let this happen.”
“I think they’ll just be glad to see you.” Nikolas cleared his throat. “I was wondering if your leaving had to with what happened at the dance.”
Emily shook her head.
“I’m sorry I took off on you guys like that, ” she said sighing. “It wasn’t because I blamed you for what happened, or anything.”
They looked at each other in silence. Emily felt like she’d just said everything she had to say to him. Everything else was between her and Lucky, and she wanted to keep it that way.
“Were things... really bad? I mean, before they found out I’d disappeared,” she changed to a topic. Crazy families were something the Cassadines and Quartermaines would always be able to commiserate on.
“They were...” Nikolas made a face. “Stilted. I think your mother only went upstairs to find you as an excuse to escape. Then when they realized you weren’t home things got a little...” he searched for the right word. “Excessive. Your Grandfather certainly is a determined man.”
“Yeah, he is that,” she smiled at Nikolas weakly. “I’m sorry, I honestly didn’t mean to be this late. I had a bad afternoon.”
“I hope that everything is alright with you and Sarah. I know she really likes you.”
Emily wrapped her arms around her, and looked down at the ground. Sarah probably thought she hated her, as she’d barely even said hello.
“I don’t know,” she said uncomfortably. “I think we’ll be fine.”
“I thought you said you went to see her.”
Emily couldn’t think of how she was going to explain any of what happened to Nikolas, without appearing to be completely crazy. As badly as she felt about Lucky, she didn’t feel like discussing him with someone who had less patience for him than she did.
“Umm....” she raised her eyes to look at him again, and stopped dead. Lucky was standing at the gate.