The Path to Power
Chapter Fifty Three
Day of Rest
Sally has Sundays off and most of Mondays too. It works out for the best. Sundays are for kicking around the house anyway: reading the paper, maybe some croissants and coffee. It isn't quite breakfast in bed though considering that AJ made the newspaper and croissant run with Rosie while she made coffee and juice... then the two of them would climb back into bed and spend the morning just catching up with each other and the rest of the world from a safe distance-- reality could wait one more day.
The big surprise of the stadium request to the planning board was starting to build steam with the letters to the Editor in the Herald. Skye had actually taken the unprecedented position of not only putting a selection of letters in but also counting all of the letters and their positions. "Everyone is evenly split." Lydia tells AJ reading from the editorial page. "Or nearly so-- forty, forty and 20 percent undecided. The pros seem to be all about the team the nays all about the taxes and the undecided mentioning both."
AJ nods absently. He is reading the sport page to see what the editorial comments are there. There is more about the rookie sensation finally signing his contract than about the stadium. "I can work with that. Dara and Gia are going to start taking some speaking engagements around town. Educational stuff. Really hit the economic pluses-- jobs from groundbreaking to actually running the place. What?" AJ sees Lydia just looking at him.
"You just sound so... sure."
"I'm an expert at sounding sure." AJ says wryly. "It's a political thing. Or an alcoholic thing that has crossed over. Either way. The Stadium is easy though since Beecher's Corners has already contacted the team manager's office. There is no downside for me on this one but I would like Port Charles to have the benefit."
Lydia searches thru the newspaper until she finds the about town section. On the front page of the section is the Grand Opening of the Chloe Morgan Park down on Courtlandt St the following week. There is evidently going to be live music and other entertainments. "Your Grandmother's park is having it's grand opening next week."
"Good-- maybe Dawg will get busy on the back yard finally." AJ counters.
Lydia flips a page and doesn't know if she comment on it or not. "AJ..."
"I think you should look at this." Lydia hands AJ the paper.
AJ looks at the announcement in the paper. A announcement of the upcoming wedding of Jason Morgan to Courtney Matthews. Not even Courtney Matthews Quartermaine. The wedding is going to be held at Queen of Angels. Good to know. Make sure they are nowhere around that weekend since the wedding is basically happening in their back yard. "Not unexpected considering Courtney was sleeping with Jason before the divorce papers were even filed." He hands it back to Lydia.
"Are you okay?"
AJ forces a laugh. "I don't have the right to be upset. I married Courtney... hell I got engaged to Courtney with the plan of trading her for Michael. I fell for her after we were married and by then the marriage was already heading for the rocks. Not my finest hour. Courtney was looking for Prince Charming and I'm not."
"But your brother is?"
AJ shakes his head. "That seems to be the consensus. Do you want an introduction? There is still time... they aren't getting married for a couple of weeks."
"Does he give foot rubs?"
"Never to me." AJ answers wryly.
"Then I'm afraid he isn't what I require." Lydia shrugs and then taking a deep breath, shares the news that has been preying on her nerves. "Besides I believe he is too late. I will probably be married by then."
AJ wrenches the paper out of Lydia's hand and throws it off the bed onto the floor. Then he cups her face staring at her as if expecting some change... maybe a magic tattoo across her forehead proclaiming that she is pregnant. "Are you sure?"
And that is when he sees the fear in her eyes. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know anything about babies, about children. What if I'm a horrible mother? What if I screw this up? What on earth was I thinking? That this baby would protect us from Helena-- make her leave us alone. Who is going to protect this baby from me?!"
"Us." AJ hugs Lydia close. "How long have you been holding this one in?"
"I realized when you left with Rosie to get the paper. I was making coffee and saw the Calendar that Sally has in the kitchen. That's when everything became... real. I should have waited until I took a test." Lydia starts to pull away.
AJ stays her with a stroke of his hand down her arm. "No, I'm going to be here every step of the way. I know you're freaking, Lydia. Even though we planned this. And I know you have issues being an only child and your parents being gone...."
Lydia interrupts not wanting there to be any misunderstanding. "They were never there, AJ. My parents adored each other and saw nothing but each other. I was just a tagalong long before they were killed in that boating accident. By the time they died I wasn't even a tagalong... my grandfather put his foot down after they ran the sailboat aground on Cassadine island. There was a horrible row. He told them they were damn fools and planning on killing themselves with their adventures they should at least make sure I was safe. I was shipped off to boarding school the next day. I think my parents were relieved."
Taking his time with his answer, AJ continues to stroke Lydia's back and side. "I don't think we're going to have that problem, Lydia. We're both so focused on not repeating what we hated about the way we were brought up-- we're probably in more danger of spoiling the kid rotten. That and making sure one isn't favored over the other or compared to the other. And even in that I'm getting ahead of myself... believing that Michael is going to be involved in this baby's life."
"He will, AJ." Lydia vows. "This baby is going to know that he's not alone. That he has family, a big brother-- grandparents, great grandparents. Sweet potatoes or yams?"
AJ laughs. "Excuse me?" Then he realizes what Lydia is doing and gets serious. "No. Damn it. Don't put that kind of pressure on yourself, Lydia. I want you to understand this... my family is never happy. Never. You could give them the perfect Thanksgiving every year for as long as they live and the most you are guaranteeing is that maybe they'll be happy for a couple of hours that day and it's a long shot at that. I want this baby to know what I found out way too late... to be... confident and self assured and not let the Quartermaines hold the mirror to whom he is. All I need for a perfect Thanksgiving is you-- I don't care if we have pizza or turkey or rack of lamb. As long as we're together, our family, it'll be perfect."
"This is the first I've heard about rack of lamb. Where in the hell am I going to get rack of lamb in November?" New Zealand!
"You're missing the point."
"No, I'm not." Lydia leans back into AJ and wraps her arms around him. She closes her eyes and lets his warmth surround her. "What next?"
"We get married. Today if I can arrange it."
"But we don't know for sure."
Lucky knocks on the door of the apartment over the Outback. Liz appears frazzled when she answers the door. "You okay? Still having problems keeping things down?"
"I don't want to talk about that." Liz demands. "I don't want you to jinx me."
"If it's not that then what is going on?"
"I want something but I don't know what I want." Liz complains plaintively. "I've already gone thru everything in my kitchen and nothing is quite right. I've been thru the Outback kitchen even tried some vegamite that they had around for anyone crazy enough to try it from the menu. I think they keep it as a bet or something."
"Well can you give me a clue..." Lucky suggests.
"Pickle ice cream. No, a pickle ice cream sandwich on saltines."
Lucky swallows hard. Liz's morning sickness might have left her but if she kept talking like that he might develop a case. "Elizabeth, I don't think that is one of the Thirty One Flavors."
"You asked!" Liz grabs her coat. "That's it... I'm going to the store."
"You're supposed to be laying low." Lucky blocks the door. Liz glares at him. "Okay, I've got something... exotic in the truck. I was going to give it to Lulu but maybe it will work. It's about as weird as a pickle ice cream sandwich."
"On Saltines.... maybe wheat thins... you know the really big ones. But I've got the saltines here already."
"Just wait here. Try the stuff I have in the truck and if that doesn't work I'll go out and get you the fixings for a pickle sundae." Lucky runs back to the truck and pulls the li hing mui that he'd saved for Lulu. He figured that if Tasha liked it then maybe Lulu would too. He brings the package up to the apartment. "Here. Nik got some of these for Penny."
"Is she pregnant?"
"Not that I know of. Just homesick. These are evidently a childhood delicacy. Penny nibbled on them and then when she started to see the seed just started sucking on them." Lucky opens the bag and offers Liz one. "It's not pickle ice cream but at least I know where to find this stuff."
Liz suspiciously nibbles on the small dried plum and then pops the whole thing in her mouth. "Oh that works. What are these again?" She asks around the plum that she has tucked into her cheek like a squirrel storing nuts.
"Soon to be in short supply." Lucky hands the whole bag over. "And don't tell your doctor who gave them to you. I'm sure they'll freak on the amount of salt in those things."
Liz tucks them into the pocket of her jacket and goes into the living room of the apartment and collapses on the couch that had been a midnight delivery from her studio. Luckily there aren't any other apartments around... just commercial properties that with the exception of the Outback closed after six. There hadn't been anyone around to question the pickup or delivery. "I thought you were going to stop by yesterday. I haven't seen you since Friday and then you were working in your office until I crashed... what time did you leave? 3am?"
Lucky kicks right by her. "Four. And then Nik showed up at Kelly's at 9. I could have killed him. Easily."
"Nine on a Saturday morning?" Liz is aghast.
"That was my thought too." Lucky looks around the apartment. It's a lot more space than Liz had in the studio or even what they'd had in the apartment over the motorcycle shop. Liz would probably start on the murals soon to fill up the space. Course the kid couldn't sleep on a mural. Maybe some of the things from the attic at his Mom's. She'd put everything up there after she remodeled into what he'd started to think of as her White Period. Should have known then that Mom was going crazy. "You wanna work on a wish list for this place?"
"You've already done so much, Lucky. I couldn't ask you to do that. I can't afford for you to be doing that." Although maybe I can go back to work now that I'm not hurling.
"One-- you didn't ask, I offered. And Two-- I'm not planning on spending any money-- this is going to be making the absolute most of your creative talents-- I figure with your Grandmother's garage, my Mom's attic, and Bobbie's basement this place will be whipped into shape in nothing flat. And whatever I can't get there..." Lucky shrugs.
Liz sighs. "I guess a bed should be the first thing. That way when you're working until four am you can just come up here and crash rather than going back to Kelly's."
"This is your apartment, Elizabeth."
"I wouldn't have it without you, Lucky, so don't be stupid. I crash at your place; you crash at mine. That's just the way it is."
Ned kicks back in the most comfortable chair in the living room. The newspaper is open in front of him so anyone looking at the chair would see the open paper and a pair of bare hairy muscular legs in house slippers. Yesterday they hadn't slept in but rather gone over to Skye's allegedly to help with the deck but actually to give Kristina some duck time. Today is Alice's day off and it's Daddy day, a tradition that had been implemented early on. With Kristina, he had a chance to do all things he'd dreamed of doing with Brook Lynn. First Kristina kept track of his sit ups propped up on his thighs and playing a game of peek of boo every time he sat up. Kristina had told him all about her week from her playpen while he'd showered. Then they'd had breakfast and now the Sunday ritual of reading the paper.
"What next, Kristina?" Ned asks. "Food or Travel?" Kristina grabs hold of one of the sections crumpling it in her drool moistened hand. "Travel. Good choice." It's a good thing his baby girl is already strongly right handed. It makes the choosing less of a surprise. "The Food section will be much more interesting once you have more teeth." Ned gives her a kiss on the top of the head and then starts reading elements of the travel section to the baby.
Maybe it was working on the deck yesterday but Faith had gotten inspired to start working on the exterior of the cottage, filling the planter boxes with herbs, plants and even a few flowers-- not a rose bush in the bunch, she'd leave that to Lila. Since this is Ned's Daddy time she absolutely refused to have anything to do with either Ned or the baby. They are on their own and she can work on her own projects. She hadn't been able to have a garden since before Roscoe died. It feels good to be digging in the dirt again after all this time. She'd never looked back after he disappeared, never stepped foot back in the house that she'd shared with him. Fowler had closed the house put everything in storage while she'd still been at Mercy. All the meetings with the guys had been held at Fowler's apartment since she lived in hotels until hooking up with Ned.
"Manny?" Bruno has the day off and had gone to the movies so Manny is staying close to Faith and the baby. He's wearing his ear piece so he can hear anything that goes on down at the gate to give the family plenty of warning.
"Yeah, Faith?" Manny looks up from where he is sniffing at the last pot of geraniums that Faith had him line the steps up to the front door.
"Hang this one high out of the baby's reach. Nice sunny spot." Faith dusts the soil from her gloves. "I really need to get a greenhouse. It's a tropical plant." She worries.
"What is it?" Manny looks at the wimpy looking vine that Faith had started to train with some florist wire up the supports of the hanging basket.
"Rosary Pea. A climbing vine and a few other things."
"What's that? What they make rosaries out of?"
"You could." Faith agrees. "But probably only if you go with the adage that The Lord Helps those that Help Themselves rather than Six of Ten."
"What do you mean Six of Ten?"
"Thou shalt not kill. Out of the reach of the Baby, Manny. One seed is lethal to an adult if prepared properly." It isn't her preferred poison, but Rosary Pea would work in a pinch if you didn't mind the person dying in agony puking up blood. It's kind of hard to miss when dealing with the body-- the only way it could be accidental would be if the person had a habit of going for wilderness walks and nibbling on the plants. Swallow one of the seeds and you'd probably be fine as long as the seed coat isn't broken in anyway; it would pass right thru the body like a kernel of corn. But chewed or ground into paste it would be lethal.
"You got it, Faith." Manny carefully eyes the decorative hanging basket. As he hangs it from a sunny corner of the house. "Uh... Faith? How many of these are you know..." He makes a slashing motion across his throat.
"Poisonous?" Faith looks at the various containers that she'd potted up and smiles. "Not many. All the ones by the back door are herbs for the kitchen. But on the big deck I wanted some greenery to soften things up."
"Soften things up. Right." Manny nods.
During Daddy time, calling for Alice's help is also a big no-no. Even though Alice is just out in the garage with her head under the hood of the car. Alice has a list of deliveries of things that were coming for the car and couldn't really leave. Ned had been bad when Alice first started and interfered with her first Sunday off. Every Sunday after that Alice had left the property until this one. Ned knows he is on notice. It's better to have Alice here in case of emergency, so he isn't going to call on her unless it is one.
Alice and Bruno aren't the only one with the day off-- half of the guys are gone for the day. The other half had been gone yesterday. Faith always liked to make sure there was plenty of coverage and with the exception of the guy at the gate all the rest of the guys had the run of the place as long as they kept in constant contact. Which meant most of the guys on the property are hounding Alice about what she's doing. And sure enough-- just as Faith had predicted-- they came bearing gifts: wheels, tires, stereo and other miscellaneous items.
Dillon had gone into work, once summer started he'd have regular days off but until then he's working six days a week when you included school. Yesterday had been his day off and that had been spent over at Skye's place. Course with Georgie there it was probably where he'd wanted to spend his day off anyway. Yep, it was shaping up to be a nice quiet Sunday.
"Hello, Mrs. Hardy."
Audrey straightens from where she is cleaning out her garage. In her younger wilder days she'd be swearing at being caught unaware but decades of raised expectations have her biting her tongue and only thinking what she'd love to say. "Hello Mr. Lansing."
"Please call me Ric." Ric smiles at Elizabeth's grandmother. "Is Elizabeth around?"
"Liz doesn't live here. But no, Elizabeth isn't around." Audrey states flatly.
"Mrs. Hardy," Ric pauses significantly to gather his thoughts. "Liz and I have had a misunderstanding... and the only way we can clear it up is if we can just sit down and talk. It's not just us involved anymore, Mrs. Hardy. I know about my baby." His face is earnest and kind-- trustworthy.
The fact of it is, Mrs. Hardy hasn't seen such an instantly trustworthy face since Dr. Ryan Chamberlain. You never quite forget the lesson that ended with being beaten to death's door. Audrey takes a shallow breath to camouflage her sudden fear. "Elizabeth never told me it was your baby, Mr. Lansing." God will understand. Steve would understand. Elizabeth is afraid of this man. "I love my Granddaughter, Mr. Lansing." Then Audrey continues and lies thru her teeth. "But there is something you should know-- Elizabeth is... promiscuous, Mr. Lansing. If she's told you it's your baby then I'm sure that's possible." Audrey makes sure it sounds as if it's very unlikely.
"Elizabeth would never cheat on me." Ric protests. But there is a sinking feeling in his stomach. Elizabeth never told him she was pregnant-- let alone that it's his baby.
"Did you ever ask?"
"Elizabeth is promiscuous, Mr. Lansing, not dishonest. She considers it part of her artistic temperament. " Audrey shrugs. "Or it could be a backlash against a father than never paid attention to her but always to her sister Sarah whom was held up as perfection. Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to get back to this. There is a truck coming to haul off any of the useable items tomorrow." Audrey watches as Ric walks back to his car. She isn't surprised when there is a hand on her shoulder after Ric is gone. "That was a mistake, Lucky. He'll come after Elizabeth harder now."
"He'll have to go thru me, Mrs. H." Lucky reminds her quietly.
"If I didn't believe that, Lucky, I never would have gone along with your plan." Audrey looks up at him. "He's not right, Lucky. I know what you told me. I know what you told me he did to Carly, to Courtney. I don't want him anywhere near my granddaughter. But what he did to them wasn't... personal, not really. If he gets his hands on Elizabeth-- she can't hide-- not in her condition, Lucky: prenatal vitamins, checkups... And we're talking about Elizabeth-- she'll run out of cerulean blue in the middle of a painting..."
Knowing everything that Mrs. Hardy is saying is true, Lucky winces. "I'll shut him down, Mrs. H. Everything that Ric did brought up stuff for Elizabeth. Stuff about Tom." Lucky says awkwardly. "I just want to give her a little more time. Getting the apartment ready will keep her busy, give her something else to focus on. I'll make sure she doesn't run out of paint. But maybe it's time you started patronizing the Outback on a more regular basis."
The reality of working for yourself is that you never really
get a day off. Even when she'd been working at the DA's office she'd come in to
do on Saturday what had piled up all week long. Dara reminds herself. Sunday
always ended up being the day for cleaning house, doing laundry and running
errands. Getting everything done in one day that would have to last all week
long. Dara looks around her apartment. It is a peaceful retreat... or at least
as peaceful as she could keep it without actually having anything living in it.
There couldn't be any plants or pets. Plants had to be kept at the office since that's where she spends most of her week. And pets... that would just be cruel. She'd tried fish for while and even that hadn't worked. Now there is just the tank with the pump running to give a little bit of atmosphere. Instead there are colorful prints on the walls, dishes of potpourri, candles and the best stereo she could afford ten years ago. Should probably upgrade but frankly she didn't have time to go shopping-- and a stereo is something you have to hear before you buy.
She figured out ages ago that online and catalogue shopping is the way to go for most things. Do the shopping on your lunch hour over a sandwich packed from home and have everything delivered to the office. No immediate gratification but real life had a way of convincing anyone that reached adulthood that delayed gratification is the only kind you get most of the time. Course there had to be a balance between achievement and being a caged rat going round on a wheel and never getting anywhere. The difference between being her own boss and being a cog in the District Attorney's office.
Course seeing how the other half lived... you couldn't exactly call them the idle rich: Stefan, AJ, Skye and Lydia. All of them rich as hell and you couldn't pay her to have their lives or the trouble that went along with. Even if it meant that she had to clean out her own fridge. It's a chore she'd learned the hard way to not skip. Because she spent so little time at home, the milk with a few days left on it went down the sink. Any leftover take out cartons went into the garbage along with the contents of the crisper. The contents of the crisper got to be an oxymoron but it wouldn't be a big appliance selling point if they called it a slimer instead, even though it would be truer advertising.
But everything else is done. The apartment dusted, vacuumed and scrubbed as needed. Now just a few errands and maybe, just maybe a bit of a book read for fun. Gathering up the garbage to dump it on her way out, Dara opens the door without looking and almost runs into someone just about to knock on her door. "Mrs. Quartermaine?"
"I'm sorry to disturb you on your day off, Dear. But the utmost discretion is needed."
"Just let me drop this off." Dara goes over to the garbage Shute and drops the bag in. "Come on in, Mrs. Quartermaine. How may I help you?"
"This is getting to be a regular thing. The neighborhood is going to start to talk." Mac says wryly as he passes Taggart a sponge to wash the other side of the car.
"At least I brought my car this time. You called this meeting?" Taggart takes the sopping wet sponge and starts scrubbing down his boss' car. In some lines of work this would be considered and abuse of power... but since they couldn't talk at the station after Capelli this was the handiest way. "Hear you offered the Spencer kid the PI business."
"Yeah, he'll be good at it. Not as many rules." Mac grabs the hose and rinses off one section and moves on to another. "Actually though I wanted to fill you in on what Skye Quartermaine told me yesterday. Or rather what she gave me."
"Pictures... surveillance pictures that her... what the hell would you call Coleman?"
Mac smirks at that but goes on. "Coleman did a little search on one of his tenants at Jake's and came up with surveillance photos."
"Skye, Sonny, Jax, Ric Lansing."
Taggart winces. "Capelli's replacement."
"Maybe his killer." Mac agrees.
"Stalking horse. We won't be able to use any of it." Marcus shakes his head. He takes the hose and rinses the section he'd been working on. That about finishes up Mac's car. Gathering up all the supplies he goes over to his own vehicle.
Mac takes a minute to make sure all the windows are rolled up on the lieutenant's car. "If it were just about anybody but Coleman. No way is he acting as an agent of the police." Mac counters.
"Yeah, anyone who knows him would know that. But a jury-- they don't get all the facts-- just the ones that the judge figures are admissible. And besides how do we know that Coleman didn't take the pictures himself? He's more than capable." Taggart counters.
"Works for me. Pictures fell into our laps along with some rumors... we work from there." Mac suggests. "Capelli was dirty but he was a cop. We don't catch this guy it's declaring open season. We've got enough of a credibility problem in this town as it is."
"Mac? Is Lieutenant Taggart staying for dinner?" Georgie calls out from the front porch.
"Just going to grill some seafood." Mac offers. "You're more than welcome."
"Shrimp on the barbie? How could I pass that up?"
"Welcome home, Mrs. Quartermaine."
Set back on her own two feet, Lydia leans into AJ's embrace and kisses him in the open doorway of the Brownstone. "Say it again." She demands.
"Oh that's lovely too but the other part."
"Mrs. Quartermaine." AJ nuzzles her ear and combs his fingers thru her long hair. "Mrs AJ Quartermaine. Lydia Quartermaine. Lydia Karenin- Quartermaine."
"I think that last one might be too long for most forms of identification." Lydia says wryly. Although it does kind of roll off the tongue.
"Lydia K. Quartermaine."
"Definite possibilities." Lydia agrees. She takes a half step back so that AJ can finish coming into the brownstone and shut the door. "I can't believe you arranged all that for a Sunday afternoon."
AJ shrugs. "We knew we were getting married and already had the license. It was just a phone call. Tonight, I think, is going to be the last night that we have to ourselves. Things will start to get interesting tomorrow-- when we go public. You do realize that the consensus of opinion will be that you are crazy?"
"For marrying you?" Lydia guesses. Shrugging, she dismisses the concerns of the masses. "Then they don't know you the way I do." She takes AJ's hand and starts up the stairs. Looking over her shoulder she adds. "And they better never."
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