Emily hovered around the door to the cafeteria for several minutes. She'd been hovering all day. She'd taken a long time at her locker that morning, in case Lucky came looking for her. She'd lingered in the English hallway on her way to class, because she knew he'd had Literature the period before, and she might encounter him. Now here she was doing the same thing at the caf. Ideally, she wanted to run into him before he actually entered the lunch room. She wasn't too enthusiastic at the idea of seeing Lizzie again.
The hallway had pretty much cleared out when Emily finally decided that she was being ridiculous and entered the room. She immediately spotted Lucky sitting at a full table, surrounded by a bunch of his friends, who included Sarah and Lizzie. Em knew if she went up to them, they'd make room for her, but she didn't want that to happen. She disliked being the center of that kind of attention. It was like being the cheese in that Farmer in the Dell game teachers made her play as a kid. All the other kids would crowd around, and clap over her head while singing “The cheese stands alone!” She'd hated that game. At the same time, she was pretty sure that if she sat somewhere else in the room, and he noticed her, he'd think she was either avoiding him, or just being immature. She decided it was probably best to just leave.
Emily walked hurriedly out of the caf, and immediately headed towards the doors leading out to the park. She felt anxious, worried that Lucky might have seen her, and thought she was behaving like a spoiled brat, upset because she wasn't the center of his attention. Maybe that was what she was doing. She recognized this feeling: it was her “I don't want to deal with my life” feeling. She stopped in the hall, deciding this was not the best time to take refuge in the park. Instead she ducked into a washroom.
Two older girls were applying make-up, and gossiping about something. She slide past them, trying to blend in with the tile. She went into a stall and locked the door behind her, laying her face against the cold metal barrier. She was waiting for the girls to leave, but they kept talking, their speech punctuated by sharp bursts of high-pitched laughter. This served to worsen Emily's already declining mood. She just wanted everything to be silent for a moment so she could think. Silence was something Emily's life was decidedly lacking in.
* * * *
Lizzie had noticed all through lunch that Lucky's eyes kept drifting towards the door. He wasn't present in the conversation, either. Tim had been attempting to drag him into a playful argument about some computer program, but he seemed to be completely incapable of holding up his side of the conversation. Halfway through the hour, everyone had given up talking to him, and he had settled into staring at the table top, and making occasional glances around the room. Tim and Deenie were arguing about Great Expectations , and Sarah was playing referee. Lizzie hadn't cracked the spine of the book yet, so she kept quite to avoid anymore displays of idiocy. Instead she devoted herself to the contemplation of what could be bothering Lucky. Her first choice was Nik, but he was nowhere in sight, hadn't been for almost two weeks. She couldn't imagine Lucky being distressed about the continuation of Nik's disappearing act. She found herself wishing that the rest of the table would just disappear. She only got part of her wish when Sarah announced that she was going to the library, and left the table. Lucky gave her some vague sort of wave, but didn't interrupt his fixation with the table top. A silence descended on the group. Lizzie had noticed that Tim and Deenie had joined the ever-growing group of people who thought Sarah was amazing and her little sister was pretty lame. With Lucky not contributing to the conversation, suddenly no one had anything to say. Tim drummed his hands on the table.
“So, Deenie... Wanna go check out .....something?”
Deenie was already packing up her stuff.
Lucky raised his eyebrows, but didn't look up.
“You Wanna come?”
Sure, Lizzie thought. Don't ask me.
Lucky shook his head. Tim grabbed his bag, and looked at Lucky critically.
“Whatever you've got, man, I hope it's not contagious.”
Lucky didn't respond. Tim and Deenie exchanged looks, and moved quietly away from the table. Lizzie watched them leave, convinced that Lucky's behavior was going to be the subject of their conversation the second they got past the door. She turned her attention back to her friend, realizing this was the first time she'd had him to herself in a while. Of course, this was only because no one else felt like being around him. Maybe he was just waiting for a more intimate moment to bear his soul to her. She decided to wait for him to let her know he wanted to talk.
* * * *
Emily stared at herself in the mirror. She felt like years had passed since she'd really looked at herself. She gazed into her own eyes, looking for some clue as to why she was feeling the way she was. What was going on with her? She wanted to go and find Lucky again, but she couldn't seem to make any move towards the door. She was afraid of what might happen if she went to talk to him. In the past week she'd probably seen Lucky more times than she had in the whole past year. The question was, why? He had been the one doing the calling, waiting for her, whatever. That wasn't normal. What did he want?
Emily knew what she wanted to believe he wanted. She also knew that was ridiculous. She wondered how much a person was capable of controlling their feelings. For instance, in the last few days all her mind wanted to think about was Lucky. And every time she saw him, her stomach did somersaults. She wondered if just wanting those feelings to go away would be enough to stop them. Intellectually, Emily knew that letting herself have a crush on Lucky Spencer was a really bad idea. She wasn't even sure if it was a good idea to be friends with him again. But emotionally, she knew she'd missed him horribly all the time they'd been distant from each other. And she loved spending time with him the last few days. And they had fun together. But being friends was one thing. Anything beyond that was uncharted territory for her, and she couldn't help but see it as an opportunity for more pain.
She'd tried not to focus on the way she'd felt when Lucky left town, and how betrayed she'd been when he reappeared, family intact, a few months later. The fact was, while Lucky was probably the best friend she'd ever had, and he'd been there for her through some pretty extreme circumstances, there were times when he had been completely unavailable to her. The night of the Barbecue sprung immediately to mind. He'd been almost determined not to give her a moment of his time. And then when he'd joined Keisha in walking her home, she'd felt like he was doing it out of some muddled sense of duty. She had decided that night that she wasn't going to subject Lucky to any more of her moods or problems. In fact, she wasn't going to subject him to her company at all. That was when she'd stopped phoning, and he didn't seem to have noticed.
The minute Lucky had shown even the slightest sign of regret, however, Emily had completely forgotten all of this. Now she remembered all of those feelings and felt extremely dense. That was probably what this was all about. Lucky had always taken it upon himself to look out for her. It was that sense of duty again. It had to be. Because Lucky's focus would always be his family, above anything else.
Except for one thing: Lucky hadn't gone to Switzerland with his father. That was very out of character. The only clue she had as to why was seeing Lucky at the barbecue with Sarah. It had seemed clear to her that night that Lucky was really taken with the girl. And then, later on, she'd seen Sarah on a date with Nikolas. Emily couldn't believe she hadn't put the pieces together yet. At the time Emily had thought Lucky couldn't have been very thrilled about it, but she hadn't given it much consideration since.
Em wasn't sure where that fit in with the fact that Lucky was suddenly paying so much attention to her. Unless she was good for his ego, in which case wouldn't Lizzie be even better? That was presuming that Lucky noticed that Lizzie was completely gone over him. She realized that a certain times he couldn't always be relied on to figure these things out.
Emily sighed, and picked up her bag. All this introspection was serving no purpose as far as lightening her mood. She walked out into the hall, and moved slowly back towards the cafeteria. Maybe she'd be able to take another shot at catching Lucky alone, if only to make sure that he wasn't still upset with her about the day before.
* * * *
Lizzie was getting increasingly angry. She'd been sitting here for almost twenty minutes with Lucky, and he had not moved, or made even the slightest sound, let alone opened up to her. Maybe he had blinked once or twice. He'd completely given up on the door-watching. Lizzie was feeling almost competitive about it, sitting across from him, starring at him, starring at the table top.
“Are we having fun yet?” she finally spit at him. Lucky looked up and regarded her coolly.
“You don't have to hang out of here, you know.”
“What are you doing?” her voice was uncharacteristically shrill.
“Thinking,” Lucky said flatly, “You should try it sometime.”
Lizzie was visibly hurt. She pushed her chair back violently.
“You know what, you're right. I can be somewhere else.”
“Lizzie!” Lucky called after her. Lizzie stopped. This had better be good, she thought, or he was going to regret it. “I'm sorry. I seem to have a knack for saying the wrong thing, lately.”
Lizzie studied his face. He looked genuine. She sat down again.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“At this point, I'm afraid to open my mouth.”
“Yeah, maybe you should go with that,” she muttered, tersely. Lucky shrugged and resumed his examination of the table top. Lizzie rolled her eyes “I was kidding.”
“I don't exactly have a great sense of humor right now.”
“Lucky,” Lizzie leaned across the table, her face deadly serious. “Sarah hasn't seen Nik for over two weeks, except in English class. They are completely on the outs. For the first time in ages you're actually here at lunch, and you spent the whole hour starring at the top of the table. Exactly how is that going to get you anywhere?”
“I don't think....” Lucky let his voice trail off.
“What? You don't think what, Lucky?” Lizzie pressed “This is your big chance. I know my sister, she likes you. But you can't wait too long, or she'll think you're not interested!”
Lizzie felt a twinge of guilt. She knew that Sarah didn't think of Lucky that way, but she figured that if Lucky didn't hear straight from Sarah's mouth, that Nikolas aside, he had no chance with her, then he'd never look her way. He had to have no hope.
Lucky raised his head.
“She's not with Nikolas anymore. That's the important part.”
Lizzie wanted to scream. What was going on here? She felt like she'd just waken up in some bizarre parallel universe where everything was exactly the same, except black was white, up was down, and Lucky Spencer wasn't obsessed with her sister.
“What is with you?”
Lucky's eyes suddenly focused across the room. Lizzie followed his gaze, and saw Emily Quartermaine standing by the door. All things became clear.
Emily walked over to their table.
“Hi,” she said, her voice sounding very shy.
“Hi,” Lucky responded, after a moment's pause.
“Ummm....“ Emily's eyes fell on Lizzie. “Hello,” she said quickly, and looked back at Lucky. “How're you doing?”
“Fine,” Lucky shrugged. Lizzie felt very cold. She'd never seen Lucky look at anyone the way he was looking at Emily. It wasn't the sort of awed, puppy-love look she'd seen him give Sarah when she wasn't looking in English Class. It was more like he and Emily were having a conversation entirely separate from what they were saying. Lizzie realized that Sarah was the least of the obstacles littering her path now. This was very bad news. At least with Sarah, she could always figure out where things stood. Emily was an unknown opponent.
They were still starring at each other. Lizzie wasn't even sure that they'd noticed she was still there.
“Where were you?” Lucky finally asked. Emily cringed.
“I came by, but you were here with all your friends, and I didn't want to bother you,”
“You don't bother me.”
“Ok. Next time I'll just come over... I just felt weird. I mean, I don't really know them, but they probably know all kinds of stuff about me,” she rolled her eyes. “Sometimes I get a little strange about meeting people, you know?” She wasn't sure if that made any sense, but at least it didn't sound like she was avoiding him. “Anyway,” she sighed, “I've got to run to class, but I'll call you tonight, Ok?”
Lucky looked up at the clock.
“Man, yeah. Ok.” Emily smiled at him, looking relieved. She turned and walked out of the cafeteria.
Lizzie watched Lucky watch Emily leave. Her stomach was churning with fury. She couldn't believe this was happening. All these months of doing back flips to get Lucky's attention away from Sarah, and it lands on another girl. So maybe Emily was a harmless person, maybe she was even nice. That wasn't the point. She wasn't going to give up on this. She was not going to loose.
* * * *
Emily decided to give walking home through the park a try. She'd managed to avoid all the parts of the park she and Matt had hung out in during her lunches there, but it was impossible to take that route home without hitting the far side of the park were she'd seen him for the last time. She hadn't been there since he'd died. Last night, after the whole thing with Lucky, she'd thought she should probably stop avoiding things like that, and taking the shorter route home seemed to be a good place to start.
Her goal today was to simply make it home, she told herself as she walked along the path. She was not going to linger, she was not going to get maudlin. She just needed to know she could do this. She bowed her head, so that she wouldn't have to observe too much of her surroundings, and walked at a quick pace. It was going to alright, she told herself.
Em stopped, surprised, and looked up to see Nikolas Cassadine standing by a tree in front of her. She blinked.
“Oh. Hi.” She looked around, thinking that something was out of place. “Ummm OK.... What are you doing here?”
Nik gave her his award winning smile, and shrugged.
“Reading. I like it here. It's pretty quiet.”
“Yeah, me too.” Emily still felt really confused. Nik didn't seem to think that there was anything strange about his sitting in a park in the middle of Port Charles on a school day, though, so she decided to go with it. “Is Spoon Island not quiet too?” she asked, since she couldn't come up with anything else to say.
“Sure. It's just.... You do know I'm going to Port Charles Secondary, don't you?”
Emily closed her eyes, and put hand to her head.
“Oh, right. I'm sorry, I did know that. I can't believe I forgot!”
“Well, I haven't been around much. I assumed Lucky would have told you.”
Emily bit her lip.
“He told me when I first got back, but he hasn't mentioned it since. Don't take this the wrong way, but Lucky doesn't really talk about you if he can help it.”
Nik nodded, and walked over to a park bench.
“Yeah, I guess that's for the better. I don't talk about him much either.”
Emily took another look over her shoulder. She wasn't sure who she expected to see there, but for some reason she felt nervous talking to Nik out in the open. She shook her head, and joined him on the bench.
“So, why'd you switch to public school? I mean, I nearly had my family get me tutors this year to avoid coming back here.”
“It's... what's that saying? ‘The grass is always greener on the other side’? That had a lot to do with it.”
“So how does the grass look now?”
“I'm not sure it was a good idea.”
“Is Lucky....” Emily tried to word the question so that she sounded impartially fair to both of them. “Are you and Lucky managing to .... Co-exist?”
“Barely.” Nik's face darkened. “He's really a piece of work.”
“Yeah, “ Emily said, quietly.
“I'm sorry, Emily.” Nik said, remorsefully. “I know he's a friend of yours.”
“He's just not very good at controlling his emotions, you know?”
“Yeah. I noticed that.”
Emily smiled at him. She liked talking to Nikolas. He didn't talk down to her, and he always listened carefully to what she said. She'd begun to understand what people meant when they praised men for being “gentlemen”, after she met Nikolas. And he was awfully cute, even if her crush on him had faded.
“I'm surprised I haven't seen you around since I've been back,” Emily said, purposefully steering Nikolas away from the potential mine field of Lucky Spencer. Nik sighed.
“Yeah. Well. I've been laying low.”
“Not because of Lucky,” Emily said this more as a statement of fact, rather than a question. She couldn't imagine Nikolas letting Lucky get to him so badly that he'd be spending his days hiding from everyone.
“No,” Nikolas said quietly. “It's not Lucky. At least not directly.”
Emily decided just to let that one lie. It was as hard to judge Cassadine theories about Spencers as it was to judge Spencer theories about Cassadines. The whole thing made her head hurt. She looked at her watch nervously.
“I'm sorry, Nik, but I have to get home. It was really nice to see you again.”
Nik smiled at her sweetly.
“I'll give you a ride, if you want. I got a new car over the summer.”
Emily was impressed, though she couldn't help but wonder where he kept it, since he obviously couldn't keep it on Spoon Island. She thought about her promise to herself to walk home, though. Taking a deep breath she explained her situation to Nikolas, who, as ever, listened attentively and thoughtfully.
“That sounds like a good thing to do, Emily,” he said finally. “Would company be a good or bad thing.”
Emily smiled warmly.
“Your company is always a good thing.” she told him. Nikolas held out his hand, which Emily read correctly as a fraternal, very European gesture. She put her hand in his, and together, they walked towards the Quartermaine Mansion.
* * * *
Lizzie had spotted Lucky half a hall ahead of her in the post-school rush. It drove her crazy that she had managed to match him class for class except for last period. But there was no way she could have faked her way into Advanced Computer Programming. She pushed her way through the crowd, leaving several nonplused classmates in her dust, and managed to catch Lucky right as he hit the door.
“Hi,” she called out, in her cheeriest, friendliest, perkiest voice, “Did you survive the rest of the day?”
Lucky gave her a small smile.
“Hey, you're smiling again!”
He looked at her uncomfortably. Hmm Misfire, she thought.
“What's up, Lizzie?”
“Just on my way to work.”
Lucky looked reflective.
“Yeah? I should probably drop in on Ruby. I didn't really get to talk to her the last time I was in. Do you want some company?”
Lizzie's head was spinning. She could not figure this guy out. Ever since she'd come to town, she'd trying to get Lucky to walk someplace with her. Now finally they were going to, and it was his idea. Whatever.
“Ok. Sure.” she said, trying to sound casual about it. Maybe she'd over-reacted about Emily. Maybe they were just good friends. She was younger than him, after all. Still this was a chance to find out for herself what Lucky thought of the girl.
“So...,” she wracked her brain for a way to start the conversation subtlety. “Emily seems really nice,” she said finally. Lucky gave her a sideways glance.
“You've met her twice, and the first time, I think you scared the hell out of her.”
“No, no. We had lunch a few times. She really opened up to me. Told me about her Mother dying and everything.”
Lucky stopped and looked at her like she was out of her mind.
“When was this?”
“When you were having those marathon lunches with your father. She told me a lot of things,” she looked grave. “She's had a rough life,” she said, parroting what her Grandmother had said when Lizzie had brought Emily up while they were doing the dishes, the other night. Unfortunately, Grams wasn't forthcoming with any other information.
“Yeah. She's just usually kind of... closed-mouthed about it.”
“Well, you know how it is. Sometimes people just bond.” Lizzie couldn't tell if he was buying it or not. The thing was, she knew nothing about Emily outside of the fact that she was some kind of 90’s Lil’ Orphan Annie. At least she obviously hadn't mentioned any of their little chats to Lucky. “I guess Emily and I just have a connection.”
Lucky didn't respond. Rather, he seemed to have slipped back into deep thought mode. This gave Lizzie time to reconsider the plan she'd hatched in last class while the teacher was droning on about Ancient Greece. So far there seemed to be only one piece of information about the sainted Emily Quartermaine that could be the least bit damning. However, it had to be used carefully. Lucky's response would be hard to judge on this one. She couldn't be too obvious about how she delivered the news.
“I'm surprised you'd be friends with someone who was so crazy about Nik.” Ok... so that didn't really make sense, since he was still friends with Sarah. It did seem to have the desired effect, however, when Lucky stopped dead in his tracks.
“What?” His voice was eerily quite. Lizzie suddenly felt nervous, like she'd just lost the pin to a grenade. She gulped, and pressed on.
“She has a mad crush on him. She told me.”
“Lucky, yes. I thought you knew, you two seem so close.” Lizzie tried to give him her most concerned, sympathetic expression. Lucky looked up at her, his eyes blazing with hostility. Lizzie took a step backwards, in surprise. She hadn't expected him to get so violently angry. She was sure that the grenade was about to blow all over her.
Instead Lucky took a deep breath, and gave her a steady, intense look.
“I think there's somewhere else I have to be.” He said, his voice like ice. With that he turned and crossed the street, heading towards the other end of town.