It took a week for Emily to get her courage up enough to venture into the cafeteria. She ate in the park for the first few days. She liked the quiet, but mostly she hadn't been ready to face the kids in her grade outside of class. Nonetheless, the weather was getting too cold to continue this habit. The time had come to venture back into a normal school routine.
Aside from her classmates, there was one other thing that was bothering Emily about school: Lizzie Webber. She'd only seen her once since coming back. It had been on her first day, Emily had been at her locker, putting her books away, when she'd gotten a creepy feeling that she was being watched. She turned around to see Lizzie standing at the end of the hall, scowling at her. She'd returned the stare, at first, but felt increasingly unnerved by her, and had finally grabbed her books, and taken off down the hall.
Emily crossed and uncrossed her fingers outside the door to the caff. It was a nervous habit she'd developed as a child. Her mother had always told her "cross your fingers", whenever she went in for treatment, or a checkup. As a result, all these years later, she always found herself crossing her fingers when she was upset, or nervous. She took a deep breath, and pushed open the door.
No one seemed to noticed her entrance. That was just the way she wanted it. She scanned the room, looking for someone to sit with. The faces of the laughing, screaming kids seemed to swim in front of her. She didn't recognize any of them. Then, in the middle of the room, she saw Allison. Allison was the most popular girl in their grade, and predictably, also the meanest. Allison's eyes met hers, and her lips curled up into a cruel smile. Emily felt the blood drain from her face.
“Looking for somebody?” a voice chided from behind. Emily jolted, then spun around to find herself face to face with Lizzie. This was going from bad to worse, she thought. She hated this school. Private tutors were sounding better and better all the time.
“Hi.” she said, stiffly.
“If you're looking for Lucky, he's taken off with his father someplace.”
“I wasn't looking for Lucky,” Emily said, aware that her voice was wavering. “I was just...”
“Whatever.” Lizzie shrugged. “You wanna get a table?”
Em stared at her, in shock. The crazy girl was asking her to have lunch with her. She couldn't help but wonder why Lizzie was suddenly acting so friendly. She remembered Lucky's words, “she's all bark.” She wondered if Lucky had any clue at how psychotic she seemed when he wasn't around. Emily opened her mouth, hoping her brain would jump forward with something intelligent to say, but before she had a chance, Lizzie had grabbed her wrist, and was pulling her towards an empty table in the back corner of the room. She sank down in a chair, and after a moments hesitation, Emily pulled out the chair across from her. Lizzie was already downing a diet soda, leaning back in her seat, surveying Em's every move. Self-consciously, Emily smoothed her skirt, and reached into her bag, pulling out the lunch Cook had packed for her: a ham sandwich on a croissant, fruit salad and a thermos of freshly squeezed orange juice. She also had a chocolate eclair, from the pastry baking Cook had down that weekend. The thought off all that rich cream made her feel sick. She pushed the dessert across the table towards her companion.
“I'm not that hungry. Do you want this?” she asked. Lizzie raised her eyebrows.
“What is it?”
“It's an eclair. Homemade. They're good, I'm just not that hungry.” To prove her point, Em left the sandwich on the table, and opened her fruit salad. She picked out a piece of pineapple with her fork, and slowly put it into her mouth, chewing carefully. Lizzie reached over and took the eclair.
“Looks fattening,” she said suspiciously. Em shrugged.
“You can afford it,” she murmured quietly. Lizzie shrugged, and unwrapped the pastry.
“I guess it won't kill me.” She smiled at her, and Emily felt her blood run cold. This girl really intimidated her. “So, how do you know Lucky?” Lizzie asked, looking at Emily indifferently from the across the table.
Em was uncertain of how to answer that question. Basically she knew Lucky because his dog had a love affair with Annabel, that produced Raoul. That, however, sounded rather sordid, as grandmother would say. She swallowed her pineapple.
“Uh, well... he's a family friend, I guess.”
“Umm.. His parents know my parents a bit. I don't know. I met him when I came here to live.”
“Where from?” Lizzie asked, her mouth full.
“Arizona,” Emily said, opting for simplicity. She didn't really feel like she was “from” anywhere. Lizzie nodded, still chewing.
“Sooo.....” Emily wracked her brain to come up with a question. “You're Sarah's sister?”
Lizzie's eyes darkened. She swallowed quickly.
“You know Sarah too?”
“Just a little. We met a few times, I guess before you came to town. She seemed nice.”
“Oh, yeah. She's real ‘nice’, a regular saint,” the malice in Lizzie's voice was unmistakable. Emily shifted uncomfortably in her chair. This was going to be the longest lunch hour of her life.
“Well, I don't know her very well.” Emily's voice sounded tiny, even to her. Lizzie shook her head, and leaned across the table.
“Forget Sarah. She's a pill. Everyone thinks so. I think Lucky's totally sick of her.”
Emily frowned. The last time she'd seen Lucky with Sarah, sick was not the word that came to mind. Ok, lovesick, maybe.
“Were they dating?” She asked, confused.
“Dating? No way. Are you kidding me?”
“Why?” Lizzie leaned in even closer. “Are you interested?”
Emily was blown away by the question. She hadn't thought of Lucky romantically in ages. And even when she had, it was in a little girl way. She'd been something like eleven, twelve. Lizzie was staring at her expectantly, so Emily shook her head.
“No, Lucky and I are just friends.”
“Are you sure?” Lizzie pressed on. Emily was beginning to feel incredibly nervous. Something told her that until she got Lizzie off the scent of her relationship with Lucky, whatever it may be, she was in serious jeopardy.
“Absolutely,” she said, trying to make her voice sound light. “I even had a crush on his half-brother for awhile.” Em shrugged her shoulders, trying to impress on Lizzie that it was no big deal.
“Not Nikolas the Great.”
“You know he's dating Sarah now, right?”
“Yeah, I kinda knew that.”
“Aren't you jealous.”
“No, not really. I mean, I knew that he didn't think of me that way.” Emily blushed, remembering her failed attempt to let him know how she felt about him.
“And you're just going to let that go?” Lizzie looked like that was the most incomprehensible thing she'd ever heard.
Emily sighed heavily. This was getting crazy. She barely knew this girl.
“Well, I'm a little young for him, you know? And plus, Lucky and Nikolas don't exactly get along.”
“Yeah, I noticed that. But if you are not interested in the guy, why not make a play for him?”
“I did,” Emily looked down at her hands. “It was a mistake. Besides, I can be friends with both of them. If I was, like, involved with one of them, the other probably wouldn't have anything to do with me.”
Lizzie suppressed a smile. This girl wasn't going to be an obstacle after all. She'd been talking to her for fifteen minutes, and she already had all the information she needed. She leaned in for the kill.
“What kind of play did you make?” Emily stared at her, then let out a small, nervous laugh. She had to be joking. There was no way she was going to tell her that. Lizzie pressed on. “Did you kiss him or something?”
Emily leapt to her feet, almost involuntarily.
“Ummm, uh, Ok... you know, I just remembered something I have to do. Do you want my sandwich?” She pushed the rest of her lunch towards her, grabbing the thermos and Tupperware. Cook would have her head if she forgot the Tupperware. “It was nice talking to you, Lizzie. See you around.” She gave her a stilted smile, then turned and moved hurriedly out of the cafeteria.
Lizzie leaned back in her chair in satisfaction. Emily Quartermaine was not going to be a problem for her anymore.
In the safety of the hall, Emily leaned against the wall, trying to get her heart to stop racing. She felt like she'd just been through an interrogation, during which she had cracked and given up all the country's secrets. “Don't be ridiculous,” she told herself, “There is no way you said anything to that girl that was even a little bit damaging.” She instructed herself to breathe, then slung her bag over her shoulder, and headed down the hall, towards the park.
* * * *
Lizzie ran into Ruby's roughly three seconds before her shift was to start. She'd wasted about twenty minutes after school, looking for Lucky. She'd seen him for all of two seconds since last Sunday, and she was beginning to feel violent about it. At first she had assumed he was hiding out with Emily, but this afternoon's conversation had made it abundantly clear that this was not the case.
Ruby was glaring at her from behind the counter.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Lizzie called out as she ran past her, tossing her knapsack on the counter. Ruby grunted at her. Lizzie ducked into the kitchen, and grabbed an apron off of a peg, wrapping it tightly around her waist. She ran her fingers through her hair, grabbed a tea towel, tossing it over her shoulder before dashing out to the serving area. She dove for the nearest table that needed bussing. Lizzie had actually gotten halfway competent at this job in the last few weeks, but Ruby didn't seem to be warming towards her any. Lizzie stacked the dirty dishes into a manageable pile, and headed back to the kitchen.
“Get a bussing tray,” Ruby muttered as she passed. Lizzie rolled her eyes, and made a noise that could be construed as being an affirmative utterance.
In the kitchen, Lizzie dumped the dishes into the sink. She was feeling awful. She hated this town. Back in Colorado she had friends who knew how to have a good time, and thought Sarah was seriously lame. Here she couldn't find a single solitary soul who wasn't completely knocked out by her sister. And the only interesting guy in town -- maybe the most interesting guy she'd ever met -- thought Sarah was Aphrodite herself. At least she knew Emily wasn't going to be a problem. The slightest sign of competition, and she'd folded like a house of cards. Plus she had a suspicion that Lucky knew nothing and Emily kissing Nikolas. All right, technically neither did she, but it was a pretty safe bet. Poor little girl, Lizzie thought, smiling to herself. She should stay in the minors.
“Lizzie!” Ruby called from the front, “You have customers out here!”
Lizzie groaned, and walked out to the front. Ruby pointed to a table in the corner, where Lucky was seated, pouring over the latest novel they had to read for English, Great Expectations. Lizzie practically bounced over the table, a big goofy smile on her face.
“Hi! What are you doing here?” Lizzie enthused. Lucky barely looked up from his book.
Lizzie felt the balloon inside her pop.
“Well, can I get you something?” she asked, bitterly.
“No.” Lucky stared at the book. Then he looked up suddenly, shaking the cobwebs out of his head. “I mean yes. Yeah. Can I get a coke?”
Lizzie nodded, and turned, moving deflatedly over to the counter. She leaned against it heavily.
“Ruby, Lucky wants a coke.” she said in a monotone.
“So get him one,” Ruby sniffed. She turned and went into the kitchen. Lizzie shuffled behind the counter, and grabbed a glass. She was going to kill this boy if he didn't start paying attention to her again, and soon. She filled the glass and carried it across the room back to his table, slamming it down in front of him.
“Here,” she glared at him.
Lucky observed the bubbles popping up to the surface in response to the blow. He looked up at Lizzie, sheepishly.
“OK. I'm sorry. I just have a lot of things on my mind.”
“Like my sister?” Lizzie said, bitingly.
“Believe it or not, Lizzie, there are some things in my life more important than your sister.”
Lizzie dropped into the chair across from him, her spirits buoyed by this news.
“You're kidding. Tell me about them.”
Lucky gave her a disapproving look.
“Look, Lizzie. If you get fired, I don't think that there is anything even I can do to save your job again, Ok?”
“I thought you said Ruby was a pussy cat.”
“She is. But she has claws.”
Lizzie groaned, and stood up again.
“Ok. Whatever. Just let me know when you feel like being fun again.”
“It wasn't my intention to bore you, Lizzie. I'll try to plan my personal problems around your schedule in the future.” Lucky picked up his coke, and carried it to the tables outside the door.
Great, Lizzie thought. Now Lucky hates me, too. She threw her dish rag down on the table, and stormed off to the kitchen.
* * * *
Truth be told, it was getting much to cold to sit outside for any long period of time, but Lucky felt like being miserable. Cold wind, cold drink, long novel, in this respect, who could ask for anything more?
For days Lucky had been attempting to pin point the day his life had taken a downward slant. At first, Nikolas coming to town had seemed like a good place to start. But then he'd decided that Lulu’s illness had to be counted under that heading too. Before that his mother had been on trial for murder. And then there was his flirtation with gambling, that hadn't been good. Before that there was his parents' separation..... Lately he'd been longing for the days the family had spent on the run. Yeah, it was tough, but at least they were together. And he didn't let himself get distracted by things like Sarah Webber. The reasons he'd had for staying in Port Charles at the beginning of the summer seemed so much more concrete at the time. Now he couldn't figure out what he'd been thinking. He'd been obsessed with the girl all summer, but lately she was someone he only thought of in terms of Nikolas and the Cassadines. She'd become just another person to fall for Cassadine's charms.
His Dad coming back had just driven all this stuff home. It was hard to worry about Sarah and Nikolas when he was busy worrying about his Mother. In the last five days Sarah had slowly moved from being one of the primary things he thought about, to being just another part of the Cassadine/Spencer war. He just couldn't find a way to think of her as being important when his Mother was afraid to come home. This made Lizzie's attentions all the more irritating. If she wanted to sabotage Sarah's relationship with Nik just for the hell of it, more power to her, but he didn't have time for it. He just wanted all the Cassadines to get the hell out of the only place he'd ever thought of as his home.
* * * *
Emily lay on her bed, starring at the ceiling, trying to ward off a headache. She'd felt spooked all afternoon. Lunch had been a complete disaster. After the conversation with Lizzie, she'd ended up walking in the park, getting thoroughly chilled, and realizing that giving away her entire lunch, minus a few slices of pineapple, had been a rash decision. Of course, snacking at the mansion was always difficult with Cook on guard. Her stomach was complaining loudly, chastising her for eating such a small breakfast. She wasn't sure how she'd make it through to dinner at 6:00. At least Grandfather would be satisfied with how much she ate tonight.
Emily's food-based day dreams were interrupted by a ringing phone. She sat up dizzily, and looked at it as if it was some sort of foreign object. Then she shook her head, and slipped off the bed to answer it.
Emily recognized the voice on the other end of the phone immediately.
“See, I told you I'd call.”
She could tell he was smirking at her, just from his voice.
“Yeah, you did. What's up?”
“Umm not much. I'm just hanging out a Kelly's.”
“Are you busy, or something?”
“Oh, swamped. I was just making shapes out of the lines in the plaster on my ceiling.” As the words left her mouth, it struck Emily that at times she was probably too honest with her friends.
“Ok...” Lucky sounded like he didn't know what to make of that. “Would you mind some company?”
Emily's smile broadened.
“Sure. If you want, come on over.”
“It'll be Ok?”
“Of course. We've got two hours ‘till dinner. You could probably stay if you'd like.” A voice in Emily's head told her she must be out of her mind, Cook would crucify her. Fortunately Lucky declined the invitation.
“No, that's cool. I just wanted to swing by and say hi.”
“Great. I'll be expecting you.”
“Ok. I'll be there in about fifteen.”
Emily knew that in Lucky land that was a good-bye, so she jumped in quickly.
“Is there any way you could bring me a sandwich?”
* * * *
True to his word, Lucky was at the front door of the mansion in fifteen minutes, bearing a tuna sandwich with Ruby's compliments. Emily managed to smuggle both Lucky and the sandwich upstairs while Reginald tried to escape a screaming match between Edward and Ned in the living room.
“What was that all about?” Lucky whispered as Emily fumbled with the handle on her door.
“Who knows?” She turned the doorknob firmly, finally getting it to pop open. “Sorry,” she apologized, “Antique doorknob. It can be a pain.”
Lucky shrugged and walked past her into the room. She closed the door behind them, taking a quick glance to ensure Monica wasn't peaking around any corners.
“Am I not supposed to be here, or something?” Lucky asked, flopping down into the armchair.
“I'm not sure. It's sort of a don't ask, don't tell policy.” Emily rolled her eyes. “I don't know what the rules are around her ever since --” She stopped again. Lucky looked at her expectantly. “You know, the overdose. Since then they've kind gone back and forth between giving me a lot of space, and stalking me everywhere I go. Depends on the time of day, I guess.”
Lucky shook his head, and handed over the sandwich.
“You have a crazy family, Emily.”
Em took the bag from him, and tore it open.
“You should talk,” she teased, curling up cross-legged at the end of her bed. She took a bite of the sandwich. It was heavenly. “MMmm.... Thank you so much, Lucky. This is really good.”
“Em, if your family is so rich, why exactly can't you get food whenever you want it?”
Emily sighed. Cook was not something you could explain to laymen.
“Just trust me. It's harder than you'd think. It's usually ok, but I did something really stupid today, and lost my lunch, so by the time I got through fifth period, I was starving....” Emily's voice trailed off. Lucky was looking at the carpet the same way she'd been looking at the ceiling. “Lucky?” she ventured cautiously, “Is everything ok?”
There was a long pause. Finally Lucky looked up.
“My moms not coming home.”
Emily studied his face. His expression was unreadable, but she could tell that this was the reason he'd called in the first place. She put down the sandwich.
“Do you know why? Is it your Grandmother.”
“She says it is, but she's lying,” Lucky spit. Em had never heard him talk about his mother like that.
“How do you know she's lying?”
“She has to be, Em. I've seen her. Grandma's doing fine. She can leave anytime she wants to.”
Emily looked down at the floor. She knew that there was nothing she could do to help him with this. She couldn't offer excuses or reasons, and she certainly couldn't solve the problem. She tried to think of what she'd want him to do if their situations were reversed.
“I'm really sorry.”
Lucky kept staring at the floor.
“Yeah.” he said, quietly.
Emily let him sit in silence awhile. Finally she attempted to get him to talk.
“Why do you think she's not coming home.”
Lucky snorted. “Why else? The Cassadines.”
“You think so?”
“She's scared of something, and they have to be behind it.”
Emily didn't respond. She knew it was a Spencer trait to immediately blame the Cassadines for everything. At the same time, it didn't make sense for Laura to stay away for any other reason. It wasn't her place to say, either way. Lucky looked agitated.
“I hate them,” he said finally, “I hate that whole family. They just showed up out of nowhere one day, and nothing in my life has been normal since.”
“I know it has to be awful not to see your .....” Emily suddenly found herself getting choked up. She knew far too well what it was like not to see your Mother, but she wasn't going to make this about her. She coughed to cover up the slight tremor that had entered her voice. “It's just awful, Lucky.”
“It's not just Mom, either. It's Lulu. I mean, she's growing up so fast, Em, and I'm missing all of it. She's talking now, and everything.”
“Really?” Em knew Lulu was one of Lucky's favorite topics.
“Oh, yeah. You wouldn't believe it. She's amazing.”
“Wow.” Emily smiled widely at him. “I can't wait to see her,” she enthused. Lucky looked up at her, his face twisted into a bitter frown. Emily slid down to the edge of the bed. “Because she's going to come home, Lucky. Even if the Cassadines are behind this, she'll find a way around it. She'd never stay away from you guys for long, no matter what.”
Lucky opened his mouth to respond, then shut it again. He looked pained, but the bitterness faded a bit from his features. Emily leaned forward. “She loves you guys too much. And the way you're talking about Lulu? She's gotta be thinking the same stuff about you. Like she's missing all sorts of stuff about you growing up while she's in Switzerland. She's going to come home Lucky. She absolutely will.”
“You sound really sure of that.”
“I know I don't know your mother that well, but ....” Emily searched for the right words. “I know she loves you. And she loves your Dad, too. I'm sure she wants you all to be a family again, soon. The Cassadines can't win against that.”
Lucky stared at Emily, then shook his head.
Emily felt suddenly self conscious.
“I actually.... I think I actually feel better.”
“Well,” she laughed. “You brought me a tuna sandwich. It's the least I can do.”
Lucky leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes.
“You're a great friend, Emily.”
* * * *
Lucky had to meet Luke at Kelly's at 5:30 for diner, so Emily hitched up a decidedly more sedate Raoul, and walked with him back into town. They took the shortcut through a back lot that Emily hadn't previously been aware of. Lucky had an ability to find all the secrets a place had to offer. It took less than fifteen minutes to get to the restaurant, and Emily estimated that she had a minute to say Good-bye and get back to the house before Cook called the family for dinner.
Outside of Ruby's Lucky stopped and faced Emily, giving her a mysterious smile. Emily felt her face flush with embarrassment, though she wasn't really sure why.
“I meant everything I said before, Em. You're the best.”
Emily bowed her head, and gave a small laugh.
"Ok. I meant everything I said, too.”
There was an awkward moment. Finally Lucky reached out and gave her a quick hug. She hugged him back and gave him an impulsive kiss on the cheek.
"I'll see you at school, “ she said, by way of good-bye, and dashed off with Raoul.
Lucky watched her leave, feeling a warm glow of fondness for her. He narrowed his eyes, confused for a second. Emily Quartermaine. She really was one of a kind.
Inside Kelly's, Lizzie felt like she was either going to scream or cry. She couldn't believe what she'd just seen. That wimpy girl with HER Lucky. And she'd kissed him! She wondered if that befuddled little girl act was the same ploy she'd tried on Nikolas. Maybe she'd misjudged Emily, after all. At least she knew Lucky's affections lay with her sister. Still, she wasn't going to let Emily get in her way.
* * * *
Emily was surprised to find that she couldn't bring herself to eat much during dinner. For some reason her stomach kept doing flip flops. Grandfather was getting increasingly annoyed with her. Through most of the meal he harangued her about the way she'd been eating lately, and how growing girls needed nourishment. Alan yelled at Edward for telling his daughter what to do. Monica yelled at Edward for bothering Em while she was trying to eat. Edward yelled at both of them for being bad parents. Emily slowly made her way through a decent amount of her supper while the accusations flew around her. Despite the fighting, she found she couldn't stop a smile from creeping onto her lips. The only one at dinner who noticed this, however, was Lila, who smiled gently at her from across the table.