He took a deep breath. This could be considered crossing the line, but when had that ever stopped him from doing anything before. It was practically already done, he reasoned, his eyes staring at the bag that lay partially dumped over on the coffee table in front of him. "What the hell," he muttered, reaching into her bag and quickly finding her phone.
Billy turned it over, pressing the home button and staring at the blank screen. He shook his head in utter disbelief. He hadn't even called. Wasn't he the least bit concerned as to where she was, wasn't he worried if she was okay? Phyllis hadn't told him exactly what had happened tonight, but he knew her well enough to know that something had certainly happened with Mark and it couldn't have been good. What kind of a man just lets her walk out of his life without doing anything to try and stop it. Billy swallowed hard as he answered his own question. It was a hell of a question to ask when he'd done the same damn thing himself.
Silently he laid the phone back on the table, slumping back against the sofa. He stared up at the ceiling the once naturally exposed wooden beams now painted in a bright coat of white paint. Heather claimed it made the place look more cozy, but he knew the truth. From the moment she'd moved in, she'd tried to do everything she could to make the house different, to erase the little touches he and Phyllis had added in to make the house their own. She could change the paint. She could hang new artwork. She could buy new furniture and rearrange the rooms, but she the one thing she couldn't take away were the memories.
Billy glanced next to him, his eyes falling on throw that still lay beside him on the couch…
"You sure I shouldn't call the doctor?" he asked, helping her over to the couch and covering her with a throw.
Phyllis smiled weakly as she looked into his concerned eyes. "Unless they've come up with a cure for morning sickness in the last twenty-four hours, I'm pretty sure there's nothing they can do."
"Who says I was talking about calling for you—I may need them to check me out? You almost gave me a heart attack in there." Softly he brushed the hair away from her face. "Why didn't you call me?"
Her hand covered his as she looked up at him. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I thought I was just nauseated—I didn't know I was dizzy until I stood up and by then…well…"
He nodded, his mind flashing back to the image of her body on the floor. "From now on, you call me…regardless. Until you're through this, you don't get up like that without me in there."
"Don't you think that's a little overboard?" Her head tilted a bit, her eyes lighting up as her lips curved into a smile, "Or is this just your way of keeping flat on my back for the duration?"
She felt her heart flutter as she heard his soft laughter. "I'm hurt that you'd think such a thing of me," he grinned, leaning in to kiss her lips softly. "Seriously though," Billy sighed. "I hate seeing you like this. Are you sure there's nothing I can get you. You want some tea…maybe some crackers?"
She closed her eyes tight, holding up her hand to stop his words. "Please don't mention food again. I don't want anything…honestly. Nothing." She paused to let a slow breath leave her body. "Didn't you go through any of this with Victoria? This can't be news to you."
"It was different with Vic…she never really….well…there was Stitch and it was…"
"Complicated," Phyllis whispered, finishing his sentence with ease as she often did. "It's alright," she said quietly, reaching for his hand. "I think it's sweet that you're worried, but really there's nothing you can do. This will last until it's over and then I'll move on to something else. It's all part of the package."
Billy sighed as he glanced up towards the stairs. Even as strong as Phyllis professed to be, there were some things even she couldn't control. He'd forgotten how reluctant she was to ask for help, even when she clearly needed it. If anything happened to her, he'd never be able to live with himself.
He stood and headed up the stairs.
Relief flooded his body as he peered into the now slightly open door. She lay on her side, her legs curled up to her chest, her eyes fluttering a bit as if she were lost in a dream. He could feel his body relax, the simple knowledge that she was okay bringing him comfort.
As quietly as possible he stepped into the room. He needed to be here, to know she was okay, the image of her on the floor all those years ago now plaguing his brain. His eyes spotted the chair in the corner and he walked over quickly, pulling it towards the side of the bed. The sound of the wooden legs against the bare floor made an audible scratch and he stilled immediately as she stirred.
Sighing, he walked over to the bed, finally relenting to this only option. Carefully he removed his shoes and eased himself onto the bed, careful not to disturb her. As he allowed his body to relax against the pillow, he sensed her movement again. It was as if she somehow sensed his presence, even in her slumber and he couldn't bring himself to move away as she wrapped herself around him and rested her head on his chest.
His breathing slowed, his body relaxed, and his mind finally cleared as he brought his lips to her forehead and softly kissed her. His eyes finally closed—Now, even if only for tonight, life was as it should be.
It was just barely daylight and, though he didn't want to, he'd finally managed to extricate himself for her sleeping embrace. Phyllis would, no doubt, be feeling lousy this morning and he'd stumbled down the stairs determined to scrounge up dry toast, coffee, and two aspirin. He placed the offerings on the table, glancing up at the stairs again and wondering when she'd be down.
The thought crept into his mind again and he tried desperately to shove it away. Mark.
It wasn't his place to call him. If he'd been the least bit concerned, he could have called her phone but, he reasoned, maybe she'd asked him not to, or maybe he'd been afraid to disturb her. Though he had his opinions of him, the decent thing to do was to at least let him know she was okay.
Billy walked into the living room and picked up her phone, scrolling through the list of contacts and quickly finding his number. He rolled his eyes as he pressed the button, almost surprised to get the immediate answer.
"Phyllis?" Mark said, the tone more irritated that concerned, "Where the hell are you?"
"It's not Phyllis," Billy said, now questioning his actions more than ever.
There was a pause. "Who is this?" Mark drew in a breath, his heart beating a bit harder now. He wasn't heartless, no matter what anyone thought. He never wanted to hurt her and he certainly didn't want… "Is Phyllis alright?"
Billy sighed. "She's okay. This is Billy." He heard the huff on the other end of the line. "I just wanted you to know that I found Phyllis last night. She was upset. She was hanging out at a bar and she had a little too much, so I brought her back to my place to sleep it off. She's here now, but she's okay."
"I'll be there in ten."
"Wait..I.." Billy stopped, bringing the phone away from his ear and staring at it. "Well, this should be fun."
"Where is she?"
"Good morning, Mark. Sure, come on in." Billy countered as Mark pushed past him into the living room. He stared at Mark as he turned around to face him. "She's still asleep. She had a pretty rough night in case you missed that part."
"I didn't miss that part," he snapped. "I just thought maybe since she'd been out all night without so much as a word, she might actually be ready to come talk to me now."
"Ah, well…I'm really not so sure she's gonna be in a real talkative mood this morning to tell you the truth. I would have told you that on the phone so you didn't have to waste your time coming all the way over here, but you kind of hung up in my face…"
"Well, whether she's in the mood or not, I think she owes me an explanation," he sneered, his eyes now locked on Billy.
"I don't think she owes you a damn thing actually, so why don't' you just head on back to your office. I know how valuable your time is. I'll take care of Phyllis."
"You know what, pal. I don't much care for your attitude. Where do you get off acting like you have some kind of say in what Phyllis does? She's not yours anymore."
Billy glared at him, the truth in his words making him more angry than anything else. "She's not a possession. She doesn't belong to anyone, but to your point, I know she's not my wife. That doesn't mean I don't care about her and it sure as hell doesn't mean I'm going to stand around and watch someone hurt her."
"And you didn't hurt her? You didn't even care about her enough to stay married to her…you had her, you had your chance." Mark shook his head, heading towards the stairs. "She up there?"
Billy was in front of him, blocking the stairs in an instant. "You think I divorced her because I didn't care about her? Is that what you think? You think a piece of paper changes feelings that have existed for years?" He stepped closer to him, his entire body tense with anger. "I agreed to that divorce because it was what she asked me to do. It was what she wanted and I can't tell you how many times I've wondered if I let go too quickly—if I should have fought harder, but I cared too much. I was so afraid of hurting her more that I needed to do what she asked—what she said she wanted, what she said she needed. I didn't walk away because I didn't care or because I didn't love her. I walked away because I loved her too much to hurt her…because I still do."
He was screaming now. The rage inside him impossible to quell and the volume of his words had drowned out the soft footsteps behind him.
"Maybe he's not the one you should tell that to," Phyllis said softly, her hands trembling as she watched Billy turn slowly around to face her.
"I didn't know you were…"
She smiled softly at him. "So I gathered."
Billy stepped aside as she walked gingerly down the steps. She stopped in front of Mark. "You can go," she said softly. "And you can things out of the apartment or I can have them sent to you…whatever you'd like. You and I both know this is over."
Mark stared at her for a moment. "Let's be honest," he said quietly.
She nodded, looking into his eyes which showed honest emotion for, what she thought, was the first time. "Okay."
"We never even started." He leaned in, kissing her cheek softly. "You take care."
Billy stood quietly as he watched him walk from the room. It seemed inherently strange to watch the dissolution of a relationship happen in front of your eyes. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, walking over to where she stood.
Phyllis looked up at him. "It was never going to work. We never had a real chance."
"Why do you say that?" He stood silent, his eyes darting back and forth as he watched her lips curl into the most disarming grin.
She stepped towards him, closing the gap that existed between them, her body pressing up against his. "Because I love you, Billy Abbott. I've never stopped and I never will."
This was, he imagined, what skydiving would feel like—that instantaneous rush of adrenaline mixed with overwhelming wonder and, of course, a touch of fear. "I love you too," he whispered, his hand finding it's home in her tousled hair.
"And," she smiled, letting her lips hover just above his, "I found some mouthwash upstairs, so I can finally do this." She closed her eyes as her lips found his. It would only make sense that she'd found her way here in her darkest moment—back to their house and back to his arms.
Two Years Later
"Hey," she giggled, "I don't think I need sunscreen under the swimsuit."
Billy held up his hands, shrugging with innocent eyes. "I'm just being cautious—skin cancer is very serious and I want to make sure you are extra protected." He smiled as he leaned down to kiss her lips, sitting down the bottle and allowing her lean back against him in their oversized lounge chair.
"We need to call her back in a bit and reapply," she whispered, glancing back at him. She blocked the sun with her hand as she looked over to the shore where Aly played happily. "I swear that child would build sandcastles twenty four seven if you let her."
"It's a good gig if you can get it," Billy sighed, "I wouldn't mind hanging out here with you all day."
"Yeah, well, unfortunately we both have those pesky jobs that we have to get back to eventually." She snuggled into his arms, shuddering at the kisses he placed on her the ticklish part of her neck. "Even if I am enjoying every second of this…"
"You sure," he asked, looking at Phyllis in seriousness, "You don't feel like you got cheated out of a real honeymoon—this being so family-oriented?"
Phyllis turned quickly, her eyes widening. "Why would you think that? I love that we're here together"
"I know," he whispered. "I do too, it's just…if I recall…" His lips brushed against her ear as he leaned in ever closer, "our last honeymoon wasn't anywhere near this kid-friendly—in fact our last honeymoon is how we got that kid."
"Trust me, I haven't forgotten, but there's plenty of time for more trips like that. This is special..this is about our family being back together. This is perfect." She sighed with happiness as she felt his arms wrap tighter around her.
"Mommy! Daddy! Come look!" Aly called out to them from the beach.
"I think we're being summoned," Billy smiled, standing and holding his hand out to help Phyllis up. They walked down the beach hand in hand to see Aly's creation.
"Look at that," Phyllis said softly, as she squeezed Billy's hand. Her eyes glistened with tears as she looked up at him. It was amazing how, at only six, she was able to figure out something that took them years to learn. It was all there in her simple expression—a heart drawn in the sand with three letters—P,B, and A.
It wouldn't always be easy. Life never was, but every night—no matter what happened—whether they were doing some work leftover from the office, having a glass of wine, or thinking about an argument or disagreement—somehow their eyes would drift up to the ceiling. The wooden beams, now stripped of their paint now bore a new image, something that meant much more, something it had taken their six year old daughter to remind them of—a simple heart bearing the letters of their names. Family, home, and heart—that was their new normal.