In 1980, Edward Quartermaine put his daughter to the ultimate test of loyalty. She failed. This is what happened when the smoke cleared….

She sat in her apartment, wrapped in a haze of shock. It was too soon, even hours later, to really understand the full impact of what she'd done. That would come with time. The world had a way of teaching you lessons whether you wanted to learn or not, and Tracy Williams knew that she was about to learn the hardest lesson of her life.

Her father's words still rang in her ears--Pray that Mitch didn't marry you for your money. Pray that Mitch really loves you and will allow you to remain Mrs. Mitch Williams. Tracy knew better than even her father the answer to that accusation. She knew no good was going to come of this; that once the money was gone, her husband would chase right after it—away from her.

Tracy held the glass of scotch lightly between her fingertips. She didn't want to drink tonight. In all honesty, she hated the taste of alcohol. But society wives had to keep up appearances, and drinking tonic water at parties tended to send the wrong message. She took a deep swallow, fighting the urge to cringe as the harsh liquid burned its way down her throat. She rarely drank it neat, but tonight…tonight, she'd drink vodka straight from the bottle if she thought it would help.

Maybe I should eat, she thought, breathing in slowly before taking another sip of scotch. Maybe I should just go out, get a burger, no—tacos, she thought, tacos are cheap. Get used to being poor before it hits all at once. She almost laughed at herself. She almost threw the glass across the room.

There's a small matter I want to discuss with you.

Mrs. Mitch Williams. Tracy almost laughed at the thought. Her hand still hurt from where she'd cut it earlier. Her erstwhile husband couldn't have timed his request for a divorce more perfectly. First Daddy destroys her, and then Mitch kicks her when she's down. Throw in Larry Ashton wielding a meat cleaver, and her night would be complete.

The glass was empty. She wasn't sure where it had gone—she was only sipping. Tracy poured herself another shot. Might as well get drunk. Nothing to stay sober for anymore. No one to be coherent for anymore.

"Stop it," she whispered to herself without any real conviction. In the morning, she swore, in the morning she'd pull herself together, figure out a plan to turn this mess around. But tonight, she was tired and hurt and angry. Tonight she wanted to wallow, to feel the pain her father and her husband had caused her. She wanted to burn it into her, so that her senses would learn, so that her nerve endings would recognize the experience and be able to protect herself later on, when she'd forgotten what loving someone could do to her. Tonight, she wanted to feel her misery before putting on a tough Quartermaine face and finding a way to turn the situation to her advantage, by any means necessary.

She started to pour herself yet another shot, then realized the glass wasn't empty yet. Tracy began to laugh as an image of her, twenty, twenty-five years in the future, played through her mind—bitter, angry, downing booze like a shrill old harridan.

"This is what comes of love," she quoted softly to herself. She didn't know whether the quote actually came from anything—her liberal arts education, the only education proper for a woman, she recalled, was failing her now. Scattered business courses between the histories and literatures and philosophies. A quick hour International Trade course wedged in between all those literature and history courses. Modern European Art History to camouflage the fact that she'd taken both Principles of Commerce and Production Management in one semester.

To camouflage the fact that she loved money, and she loved business.

Tracy sat down hard on the sofa, downing the scotch in a single shot. Like tequila. She laughed again without humor. She was getting drunk. She was getting nostalgic. She thought back on her college days, on the wild nights of parties and social life. She loved being away from Port Charles. Even though she was one of the only married co-eds, and even though she had a baby, college had been one of the best times of her life.

"Maybe I'll just go on out and stage a hostile takeover," she whispered into the glass. "Maybe I'll just kick Daddy right out onto the curb and take over ELQ." She smiled as the glass just listened politely. "That'll show him. That'll show them all that Tracy Williams…" She swallowed hard as the thought cut through her abdomen like a dagger. "That Tracy Quartermaine is not to be ignored. That you can't just write her out of the world. That she's a force of nature." She groaned as the doorbell rang. "Now what?" She turned to the door, yelling, "Go away!"

"Tracy?" There was a slight lilt to the feminine voice, that combination of air and sweet fluidity that symbolized her mother's speech. "Tracy, darling, open the door."

The sound hit her like lightning and Tracy felt her bottom collapsing beneath her. The world rocked, her hands began to shake, and the glass fell to the floor. "It's open," she managed to breathe as her entire resolve faded in a flash. "Mommy…" she whispered as the tears began to overwhelm her. "Mommy…"

She didn't see Lila enter the penthouse, nor did she see her cross the room to join her on the sofa. All she could do is smell her perfume, a light floral scent so very typically her mother, and feel the rush of warmth that surrounded her as Lila pulled her into her arms, cradled her, rocked her gently as she kissed the top of her head repeatedly, whispering her name over and over again in that charming accented voice.

"Mommy!" Tracy felt three years old again, clutching to her mother, begging with her arms and with her tear-stained cheeks and with every hard, gasping breath for forgiveness. Forgiveness for sins both real and imagined, for being too much, for being not enough, for being a girl, for being a Quartermaine…. "Mommy."

"I've seen your father," Lila said plainly, stroking her daughter's hair as she held her. "He's furious."

"I know, Mommy." Tracy offered no explanation. She knew her mother had already chosen her course and would reveal her plans in her own time. It did no good to try to rush Lila Quartermaine. In her own way, Tracy's mother was just as stubborn as her father. "I…have no excuses."

"Good. That's a very good start, darling." She pulled back slightly, noticing the glass on the floor for the first time. Lila tsked, picking up the glass. "You should put some soda water on that," she said absently.

"I don't give a damn about the rug, Mother."

"Language, young lady!" But Lila's voice was gentle, with no real anger or scolding in it. She looked into Tracy's face for a long time before speaking again. "You've told Mitch, I gather."

Tracy shook her head. "I didn't have a chance. I called him..to ask him to come home so I could…break the news." She turned away, her lower lip between her teeth. "He asked me for a divorce before I could even say 'come home.' He doesn't know."

Lila drew in a hard breath, holding it for long time before letting it out slowly. "His timing is incredible," she said darkly.

"Tell me about it." Tracy pulled out of her mother's embrace, wrapping her arms protectively across her chest. "I could hear Susan Whatsername in the background." At Lila's concerned look, she pulled her lips wide in a hard smile. "He has an apartment. They've been sleeping together the whole time." Both women had known, of course, that Tracy's husband was unfaithful. But it wasn't something you discussed…unless the jilted wife's life was exploding into a million pieces.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart," was all Lila could say. Anything more would have been cruel. They both knew what was happening here. They both knew Tracy could not fix her marriage, nor would Edward back down from his vow to disown her. They both knew that, to a large extent, Tracy had brought much of this on herself. But that knowledge didn't make it any easier, on Tracy or on the mother who loved her only daughter despite her flaws. They both knew there was nothing Lila could do to help her, no influence she had that could turn the tide back in Tracy's favor. Tracy would not ask, and Lila would not offer to try. "I'm sorry," she breathed, pulling Tracy back into her arms.

Lila brushed a strand of hair out of Tracy's eyes. The braids she wore had come loose, and long strands of chocolate hair were vying for freedom at random places. She looked soft, Lila thought, and vulnerable. So beautiful, her young foolish daughter.

"Tracy," she said softly, not wanting to do it but feeling it was necessary if they were ever going to have a relationship. Her daughter would most likely leave Port Charles now. Her daughter was going away, and Lila needed this one last thing to hold on to if she were to survive yet another separation. "Darling, when your father was asking for his medication…."

"I swear I thought he was faking," Tracy said.

They both chose to believe the lie, because it was the only way they would ever survive as mother and daughter.

Lila smiled sadly, and Tracy could feel the warmth coming back to her face. Her mommy was beautiful, the one thing of true goodness in the whole benighted Quartermaine history. Soft skin, sparkling eyes full of love and humor, that gentle sweep of golden hair. She remembered as a tiny girl lying out in the sun, hoping it lighten her own dark hair so she could be beautiful like Lila. Now, she knew she'd never be beautiful like Lila. She didn't have Lila's heart, or Lila's soul. No, Tracy would forever be the Quartermaine who tried to kill her father.

Who cold-bloodedly stood by and watched him suffer a heart attack.

Who listened to her Daddy beg, plead for his medication, and viciously refused to help until he promised not to cut her out of the will.

Who would murder her own father for money.

She began to cry again, hard this time, desperate and inconsolable. Even Lila's fierce embrace could not calm her, even her soft whispers of reassurance, of knowing that her mother understood, at least on some level, what it was like. Daddy didn't love her. Daddy would never love her. She would never be good enough, if she lived to be a hundred. If she became a millionaire in her own right, if she turned ELQ into a Fortune 25 company, if she won the lottery, joined the convent, cured cancer, nothing, nothing!

"Damn him!" she cried out, and pushed away from her mother. "Damn him, damn him, damn him to hell!" She was hyperventilating, and Lila placed her hand over Tracy's heart, steadying her, calming her with the lightest touch. "I'll never be good enough," she choked out as her breathing began to steady. "I'll never be enough…"

"You will always, I repeat, always be good enough, Tracy Lila Quartermaine," her mother said firmly. "Your father is strict, yes, but he loves you."

Tracy shook her head no, even though she couldn't bring herself to say it out loud. Edward Quartermaine had never loved her, and he never would. She was his greatest disappointment, and no amount of placating half-truths from Lila would ever convince her otherwise. But fighting with her mother wouldn't accomplish anything but upsetting Lila, and Tracy really didn't want to hurt her, too. Lila was the only friend she had left in the world.

"I'm sorry, Mother." She tried to steady her voice, to regain her composure, to be strong for her mother if not for herself. "I…" She couldn't think of anything to say, any platitude appropriate for this occasion. Emily Post did not have a section on attempted patricide. "I'm just sorry."

"I know, dear," her mother crooned. "I'll talk to him. I'll see if I can do anything to soften the blow for you."

Tracy gave her a rueful smile. Only Lila Quartermaine could sit opposite someone like her, someone so despicable and heartless, someone so damned and reprehensible, and still show compassion. "Don't push things, Mother." Her voice was docile and much calmer than she expected. "I don't want you taking any of the heat for my mistakes."

Lila winked at her, kissing her forehead. "Oh, I've taken more heat from your father over the years than you'll ever know, Tracy. And if it can help you out—"

"Don't!" Tracy breathed in slowly, trying to keep the intensity level down. "Please, Mommy, don't bother. It won't work, and…and I don't deserve it. I let him down. He could have died." The words stung against her throat, but they were the truth, and she'd told enough lies to her mother already. "Please, Mommy, don't risk it on my account."

"Risk it?" Lila laughed. "I've got your father right where I want him, and I dare him to tell me that I can't speak on behalf of my only daughter. Oh, and by the way, don't you tell me what I can or can't do either, young lady." But her voice was sweet and charming and gentle, and Tracy couldn't help but feel the effect it was having on her. Couldn't help feel the hope returning, frail and hollow but real, to her heart.

"Thank you, Mother," she whispered, embracing her once more, holding on for dear life with the knowledge that it might be a long, long time before she felt this comfort again. "Thank you."

"I love you, Tracy. Never forget that. No matter what happens, no matter what wars you and your father wage, that one fact will remain till the day I die—and beyond." She looked her daughter in the eyes, soft, aging hands on either side of that smooth young face. "I will always love you."

And Tracy knew it was true. She nodded, saying sadly, "You should go. You don't want to be here too long."

Lila frowned. "I'll stay anywhere I please as long as I please." But she reached for her handbag, anyway, and stood to go.

"Mommy, one thing, please?" Tracy couldn't believe it had taken her this long to think about it, but now it was the only thing that mattered to her. "Ned. This is going to backlash on him. Please…"

"I assure you, my dear, I will not let a soul use this against your son. He'll be fine." She hugged Tracy one last time and said before leaving, "Get some rest, love."

"Goodbye, Mommy," Tracy whispered to the closing door.

After a long moment, just staring at the closed door, she turned to face her empty apartment. It had once seemed so beautiful to her—the long expanse of windows overlooking the city lights, the elegant design, good furniture. She noticed the dark stain where the scotch had spilled out onto the carpet and almost started towards the kitchen to find something to clean it up.

"The hell with it," she muttered, turning toward her bedroom. She wanted to go to sleep. She wanted to forget about this day, and this apartment, and her soon-to-be ex-husband and her father and her family and this life that wasn't hers anymore. In the grand scheme of things, a stained carpet really didn't amount to a damned thing.

Mitch wasn't coming home tonight, and she wouldn't be here long enough to care.

The End