The Hiding Place- Part 1
There was a disturbance in my heart, a voice that spoke there and said I want, I want, I want! It happened every afternoon and when I tried to suppress it, it got even stronger. Saul Bellow
Elizabeth was safe. Her life had gone from murky and low to completely streak free of any problems whatsoever. Port Charles had made all her families dreams come true. Her father wasn't poor any more. Her mother never cried about money and food. None of them had to look over their shoulders for credit companies and debtors .
They had just stopped being poor one day.
Moving had been the fairytale wish they needed to break all the bad luck they survived. Her parents barely fought and when they did it was practiced and civil, disturbingly so. Her sister Sam was out almost every night painting the town ten different shades of red, which Elizabeth couldn't be happier about because it kept her away from the house, therefore away from her immediate presence.
Everything was so perfect. So fucking perfect that Elizabeth Webber wanted to scream her head off.
She was unequivocally the most miserable girl in the world. Senselessly miserable for an awaiting eighteen year old who was off to college, to see the real world, in a month and a half. Adventure of the unknown, hot frat boys, party after party lay dangling at her fingertips and she couldn't muster up one smidgen of glee.
This is what she was waiting for, what had become her only remedy for surviving through each wretched day at Port Charles High School. She thought when she graduated that feeling would come back. The one she always had when she was a kid. Carefree, joyful, no worries, no wondering about tomorrow because she knew there was always going to be someone loved her for who she was. With all their misfortune as a family, they had remained strong together. Life had tested them mercilessly and they had come through because of each other.
Not anymore. Things had changed, life had changed or maybe it was just her.
Everything had happened from graduation to be accepting at her top choice school, but all she felt was reckless and edgy, like someone had dropped tiny eager worker ants under her skin to drive her slowly mad.
" Earth to Liz. The baby's flinging the food."
Without looking up she caught the baby's chubby hand from venturing further into the mashed peas. A half shrieking giggly moan erupted and Elizabeth pushed the hair out of her eyes to watch the mischief reflected in her baby brother. "Don't even think about it," she whispered, scrunching her nose at baby Tom.
His blue blues glistened along with the rouse of his apple cheeks. He answered her with a small shriek this time, batting his arm up and down with Elizabeth's hand encased around it. "Yeah, what are you looking at handsome? Huh. I know mashed peas aren't exactly roast duck but a meals a meal."
Tommy's smile went sideways, showing the stark white of his very first tooth. He bounced in his seat, up and down, his curly hair swaying with it, agreeing with her all the way.
"Mom said to feed him not let the food go stale on his face."
The side of Tommy's mouth was crusted green and Elizabeth reflected begrudgingly that her sister was, on this occasion, right. Her thoughts were a million miles away in twenty pointless directions. The planning, the endless lists of packing surmounted any other duty in her head.
She used the wet cloth next to her to wipe his face and hands and the sudden move immediately agitated the two year old. He brought his arm about as far back as he could, arching his back into the highchair and moaning against the side cushion at the head of the seat.
"I know, sweetie. I know." She answered his moan with a soothing voice that somehow always calmed him. His head was still against the cushion and he played with the fork in the bowl in front of him.
" Mama's going to be home soon okay. There ya go. All done."
Elizabeth pushed the pamphlet from in front of her and stood lifting Tom from the chair and locking him around her hip. The kid weighed a ton, he had rolls upon rolls and Elizabeth could swear a new one grew every day. " I need you to watch Tommy for a bit. I have to go down to the Post Office."
Sam almost spit the water she was drinking from her Evon bottle onto the floor. She cleared her throat several times, wiping the imaginary spill spots from her workout sports bra. " I don't think so."
Her answer was nonchalant but unmistakably clear. She raised her eyes to her sisters, confident that Elizabeth wouldn't win the battle. " I need to go Sam. It's only for a couple of minutes."
" Too bad." She took another gulp. Her skin had a sweaty sheen to it that emphasized her flawless tan. It went perfect with her perfect body. Elizabeth bit down on her gum. Sam looked like she was cut right out of some gym ad in a fitness magazine.
It wasn't a myth than. People could work out, sweat till exhaustion hit and still look model-like hot. Sam had that smoky Victoria Secret thing down expertly so, except maybe the 'secret' part. She was sure Sam had no idea where to start when it came to being deliberately mysterious. Her idea of playing hard to get was wearing a thong instead of no underwear.
Sam's shadow was an easy place to exist no matter how many empty encouraging sighs from well-meaning friends piled up at her feet.
Where Sam's body was dark, exotic with every toned edge, Elizabeth's skin was white and cushiony, softly plain. Sam's eyes had a natural allure to them, her eyelids giving away bedroom glances without invitation. They were slanted just so, a dark natural eyeliner that sloped up then down. Half-lid, a message speaking she was ready for pleasure. Elizabeth's eyes were wide and open, two half crescent moons framing dark blue eyes that no one recognized as blue unless they really looked which no one did. Her lashes were blacker than Sam's, feathered up like the back of a peacock's butt. Her small indistinguishable nose lay center not adding to her face, not doing much of anything. Sam had a great nose as far as noses went. It was small and feminine but had a sexy rounded point at the end that gave her face a feline grace to it. Her lips were small but lush not freakishly full and swollen like her blubber mouth.
Yes, the differences were there, but they weren't skin deep that was for sure.
" Take him with you." Sam turned toward the sink and began pretending to do something. There were no dishes in the sink and yet she kept the water running.
Elizabeth shifted Tommy to her other hip. She winced when his hand stayed latched to one of her curls and it ripped it from the root. " I don't have the car seat Samantha. Mom took her car, obviously. Listen I need to get this in by today. You know I wouldn't ask unless it was important."
She kept refilling the bottle and then dumping out the water.
Elizabeth taped her foot, knowing she was doing a total mom thing but her fury was growing to a maximum level. " Sam."
" Do this one thing for me. Please. I need to get my application in for room and board."
" Too bad. You wait till the last minute you deserve-"
Elizabeth pushed Tommy back up on her hip as he began to slide off. " Okay, for once in your life stop being the selfish wench you are and help me. You know I had to earn this money myself and I didn't get it all in till now. Just, please."
She hated begging. Detested that it was her sister on the receiving end of it. She bit down on her gum harder, playing with the slippery flesh of her mouth as she waited and watched Sam's dull brown eyes spark to life. " And what's in it for me?"
" My respect."
" Not interested."
" I wont tell mom who I saw leaving the house this morning at 5 am."
Sam stilled, her tan complexion suddenly gray from guilt. Her lips puckered, trained on her next words. " What the hell were you doing up that early anyway. Let me guess, reading?" She calmly retorted.
Her dig hit hard but Elizabeth didn't react and focused solely on the end result. There were too many battles scars unattended to make this one any more worth her concern. " Well?"
" Jack and me are seeing each other. I don't have to explain myself to you."
Elizabeth stepped closer, repeating to herself not to lose it. She had a toddler in her arm and a bitch in her sights. Tommy was more important that this. He wasn't some football to be passed around. " You know Mom's rule. No men in the house."
" Just because our parents live in the dark ages doesn't mean-"
" Listen," Elizabeth's hissed, her body jerking as her ribs clenched from controlled anger. Tommy played with the button on Elizabeth's blouse and an air bubble of concentration bloomed from his pouty lips. " I really don't care who comes and goes from the swinging door of your bedroom-"
" You freakin—"
" But," Elizabeth's voice rose then hushed, " But, Mom and Dad are the ones who make the rules. You break them and you're out. Remember?"
She could feel Sam conceding. Her eyes kept dropping back and forth between Tommy and the floor. Man, she had that puppy dog look down flat. Elizabeth darted a quick peek at the clock. Fifteen minutes till the post office closed. Great. Now all she had to do was go ninety and hope all the lights were green.
" I guess I could
A throat cleared behind them. Elizabeth's shoulders went stiff.
" Elizabeth, dear. Do you care to explain to me why you are pawning off your baby brother to Sam when it was your responsibility to take care of him."
She eyed Sam. No wonder that look materialized just in the nick of time. Timing was everything when a good performance was the achievement and Samantha Webber never got stage fright. Instead of fighting back Elizabeth shot Sam a dirty look then strode toward her mother. " Here. I have to go."
Mrs. Webber could only take Tommy with a wide open mouth and sigh hard and harsh at her daughter. " Elizabeth Imogene Webber, you had better explain yourself…"
" Later. I need to get to the post office." She blandly cut through her mother's exasperation, not turning around to watch a look her mother had graced her with more often than necessary. It was wrapped around Elizabeth's memory like octopus tentacles.
The door shut and Mrs. Webber looked back at her oldest child, not levelheaded enough to hide her bewilderment. With her one free hand she pushed back a piece of hair that wasn't there. Her short gray bob was stiff from hairspray and didn't move just bounced back a little when she touched it. Her soft pink t-shirt began to wrinkle only from Tommy's weight. She arched a brow, her brain on autopilot, and asked " What is wrong with her now?"
Sam dumped the Evon bottle into the recycle bin next to the counter. " What is always wrong with her? She's Elizabeth."
" That'll be thirty-nine cents, Elizabeth?"
And fuck. She really hated her sister sometimes.
Elizabeth clutched the inside of her bag knowing exactly where her wallet should be and where it exactly was- on the counter next to the empty bottle of mashed peas.
Mr. Edelsen's bronchitisy voice halted the flow of foul adjectives in her steam pot of a head. " Um, I…I left my wallet at home. I-"
His old yellowish shaky hand was already up and his eyes were looking for the right button to press on the forty year old clanky register.
" Mr. Edelsen, I'll pay you back, first thing tomorrow morning."
He chuckled at her as he handed her the receipt. Her voice was way too serious for her face and her eyes didn't hold the slightest bit of light in them. " It's thirty nine cents darling. Don't even fret over it."
She shook her head, understanding him completely although it took him a good ten seconds to sputter up a full syllable. " I know, but I'll have it too you just the same."
She smiled at him and he smiled back because she had. He got the vague impression she gifted him with those polite courtesies more out of a sense of obligation than pure benevolence.
Elizabeth Webber had always been a nice quiet girl but there was a breaking mischief that traveled behind her soggy eyes. Mischief and restlessness, like a caged tiger, backed in a corner, but looking for a way out.
" Tell your family I said hello," he suddenly called out as she rushed the other way, head down, only a blur of denim to his old eyes, as she passed the forming line.
She didn't look up and she waved her hand and replied, " Thanks. I will."
Elizabeth checked her bag again. Pocketbooks were nothing but headaches. Up to her elbow in personal junk she didn't remember throwing in there in the first place; Elizabeth stuck half her head in as she leaned her butt against the door to push it open. Halfway open she turned and the crown of her head bounced against something hard sending her bottom back into the glass and making the jingle of the bell above the entrance chime.
" Excuse me," she slowly huffed out.
Her head came up as a flash of blue eyes whizzed passed her and kept going. The veil of hair around her blocked off the stranger, giving her only scattered pieces of a face she didn't recognize.
He kept walking past her and all that remained was the faintest hint of leather in the air. " Jerk."
Elizabeth drove home in complete silence. She liked the silence when she needed it like today. It was one of those days where silence was the only thing that felt right and good.
Sometimes the noise and rush of home could be so comforting, but when things got too trapped and claustrophobic, when people expected and she delivered mechanically she'd realize just how unhappy she could be in every moment. It ate at her. The unhappiness over the past year had slowly become this living breathing thing. It followed her wherever she went, what ever other things remained and drifted away, her unhappiness was something she could always count on being there.
And the damnest part is she didn't know why. She had no real reason to be this way. She had everything and more finally, except maybe love, but that was never something she thought she'd ever find in Port Charles, not with neanderthals who occupied her surroundings. The couple of crushes she had in high school she recapped now as momentary insanity. They never lasted and Elizabeth would find herself in a literal crush mode of disappointment rather than heartache.
Nothing clean cut and precise explained away Elizabeth's discontent. She had more than she deserved. Her health was great; her family life was your normal American dysfunctional type. She was going to the college of her choice and picking the major she wanted- Journalism with a Minor in Abnormal Psychology.
Her life was headed down a path that she had chosen, she had picked for her very own. No one had paid her way, no one was telling her what to do. She was a woman now and she had her whole life stretched out for miles and years, in the palm of her hands…and she didn't know what the hell to feel about it.
Didn't feelings come automatically? Why weren't they just there? The happy bubbly sensations that inspired people to dance in movies and sing on rooftops. That part of her brain must have gotten short- circuited between dolls and puberty. Maybe she needed a good rewiring like a car needed a tune up or something.
The door shut softly behind her. Her bag fell limply from her shoulder in a lumpy thud from all the useless crap in her bag.
" Pumpkin, is that you?"
She ran her five fingers through the tangled mess of unrestrained brown curls, ripping a knot or two as she made her way down the brown jungle. She needed a shower and a really big chocolate chip cookie.
" Yeah Dad it's me. I'm going bed."
The tired sigh in her reply made him peek out of his study. The hall was short enough so that you if you wanted to you could have a whole conversation with a person without being in the same room. The dim light reflected off his peppery hair. It was so neat and perfect and it was nine thirty at night. Elizabeth didn't get it. Her hair was going in ten different directions before noon cracked.
" You okay?" His glasses were to the edge of his nose. His tie was loose and his sleeves were up. He looked so handsome and business like. Not at all like someone who would be her father.
She shrugged her shoulders. " Good. How was work?"
He looked back at his paper as if remembering it was there. " I'm the boss. Always busy."
She breathed out an understanding smile. " Never off I guess. Right pops."
" Never," he answered with mock seriousness. She could tell his head was already calculating numbers and figures by the way his gray eyes kept bobbing up and down the page. " Get some sleep. A good sleep. Mom's worried about you," he mumbled turning the chair back toward the desk.
She had her hand on the railing of the staircase when she heard his last unconscious mutters. " Mom's always worried," she yawned into her chest, dragging her bag with her as if it weighed twenty pounds.
" Go to bed. I mean it Elizabeth. I don't want to hear about any lights being on after midnight."
She would go to bed. Eventually.
Sleep was never something that came hard to her. In fact most of the time she looked expectantly for it. Because it was there, the place between dreams and consciousness that she could want for nothing, The way she wished and hoped was unbridled, unchecked like a child hyper for fulfillment. Actually it was a place where she didn't have to hope because everything just was.
First she would visit the attic. It was her place. Her escape, where she could paint, liberally, and read without interruption. Work on her word puzzles and not hear the sneer in Sam's voice or the bellow from her mother as she vocalized her disapproval with Elizabeth's lack of social interaction.
Her attic was her place. No one really knew she went there and if they did they didn't lead on about it. Everything about it and everything in it from the peeled brown paint, the woody smell, to the dusty antiques that Grams shipped to her last year after the garage sale didn't do well…it was all hers and no one could take that way from her. No one could take away her hiding place.