She had often wondered if the name Imogene meant crazy. People always inserted adjectives between their first and last names, substituting the behavioral or physical descriptions for their real middle names as a joke or a way to poke fun at themselves or someone else. In fact, just off the top of her head, Elizabeth could think of several good examples – Sarah Freaking-Perfect Webber, Professor Arthur Grabby-Hands Holden, and, last but certainly not least, Linda Nosy-No-Good Robinson, the old lady who lived down the hall from her apartment who always managed to steal her mail, open it, read it, and return it without the artist managing to catch her in the act or get enough proof to call the cops. But the people in her life who served to annoy her meant little to the artist at that particular moment. Her point was that she was absolutely crazy – certifiable, a whack job, padded room bound – and her latest plan only proved it.
Even growing up, she had never been the most stable child. At four, she had hid underneath the table at a restaurant hoping to be left behind by her parents. At the impressionable age of eight, she had declared herself in love for the first time, following around her brother's best friend to the point where she would attempt to sneak over to his house when Steven went to visit. At eleven, she had died her hair green… on purpose, shaving half of it off completely as an excuse to get out of going to her sister's piano recital. At fifteen, she had gotten drunk with her friends and crashed the local youth club's Halloween party. At eighteen, she had declared that she was giving up her scholarship to study art instead of biology as her parents had pushed her in their step-by-step plan to make Lizzie a doctor. According to her family, that was, by far, her craziest action yet to date, but Elizabeth knew what she was doing that afternoon was leaps and bounds away from simply voicing her own opinion and telling her ever-disappointed parents to shove their dreams for her where the sun doesn't shine. No, what was truly crazy was spending her next month's rent on a plane ticket to fly across the country to surprise her long distance boyfriend on New Year's Eve.
But she didn't care. If romance was crazy, then she'd gladly don the straight jacket.
She had met Lucky when she was a junior in college and he was senior. While she was studying to become, hopefully, a world renowned painter, he was in Colorado getting his bachelor's degree in computer science. She had immediately fallen for his charm and easy going manner, but it taken a little more convincing and a lot of persistence on her part to get him to agree to go out with her. Lucky had claimed that she wasn't his type, that it was a bad idea for them to start a relationship when he would be moving back home to New York soon, and that he wasn't really the commitment kind of guy. His refusals only made her want him more, and, when he started to argue against the idea of them becoming a couple, all Elizabeth could hear was something akin to the adult speak on Charlie Brown. In the end, she had won; her tenaciousness paid off, and she got the guy.
At that point, it had been May. The two of them went on a few dates before finals had started, and, before she knew it, Lucky was gone, she was alone, and they were calling each other every night. During the summer, they kept in contact constantly, emailing each other multiple times a day and always, always talking to each other at night before he would go to bed. Once the fall semester started though, her life became hectic, and Lucky stopped calling as much. He told her that he didn't want her sacrificing her art for him and their relationship, and his understanding and enthusiasm for her art just made her love him even more. He was the first person to ever truly support her passion for painting, but, at that point, after not seeing him, not kissing him, not feeling his arms wrapped around her for seven months, she would have gladly tossed all her paintbrushes away in exchange for one night with her boyfriend. So that's exactly what she intended to give herself.
When fall break had rolled around, Lucky had been swamped with work, too swamped to fly out to Colorado to see her and too swamped to welcome her to his hometown for a visit. Christmas, he had explained to her, was a very important time for his family, so important that he didn't feel comfortable skipping it or changing the traditions his parents and siblings cherished so much. Although the blue eyed brunette had never had a real family Christmas herself, it was something she had always dreamed of, and, so, Elizabeth had reassured her boyfriend that she understood and decided to spend the holidays alone, by herself, at her apartment. However, New Year's Eve was a completely different story.
Before her last semester of school started, she still had nearly two weeks to do whatever the hell she wanted, and what she wanted to do was see the man she loved. She knew that she could have called Lucky to inform him of her plans, but, instead, she wanted the gesture to be a surprise; she wanted to see the sheer joy and exhilaration on his face when he opened the door at midnight and she leapt into his arms, kissing him until the point he forget both her name and his own. She wanted to see him so badly, she had refused to let the dire straights her bank account was in daunt her enthusiasm. Instead, she had spent the money she had budgeted for January's bills, thrown caution to the wind, and decided to the let the chips fall where they may. After all, a girl didn't get the chance to surprise her boyfriend on New Year's Eve very often, and, while her opportunity to do so might not always be there, her bills would be. She would simply have to work just that much harder when she returned from New York.
With one last glance around the tiny studio apartment she lived in, Elizabeth smiled to herself, hefting her thrift store suitcase up off the floor as she made her way towards the door. Maybe it was crazy, maybe it was foolish, and maybe she would someday come to regret it, but couldn't the very same things be said about love, and, in her young, twenty-two year old book, love was never wrong… and neither was flying across country to surprise Lucky with a kiss at midnight.
10, 9, 8…
Of all the things she forgot to pack, it would have to be the Kleenexes. She had enough clothes squeezed into her suitcase to last her a month without washing. In case she got cold at Lucky's because everyone knows that men and women have vastly different internal thermostats, she had brought with her an electric blanket. She had movies, in case her boyfriend didn't have an account at the local rental store, toilet paper because he was a guy… and guys did stupid things like allow themselves to run out necessities, and a sewing kit despite the fact that the one and only time she ever attempted to sew something she ended up poking herself in the finger with the needle. She had potholders, fuzzy dice, clothespins, two calculators, perhaps in case one broke, she really didn't know why, a fur muff, a tire gauge, and a disposable camera. Hell, she even had the remote to her TV, but that had simply gotten packed on accident. However, the one thing she needed, wanted as she sat in a practically empty terminal of the JFK airport were Kleenexes, and there were none in sight. Even the gift store where she could have bought some if she had any money on her was out. So, with no tissues on hand, she pulled out a t-shirt from her suitcase and used it in an attempt to wipe away the never ending stream of tears rolling down her pale face.
Of all the ways she had expected the night to go, Elizabeth had never pictured being stranded in New York City, alone, because of a surprise Northeastern snow storm. Hell, she was from Colorado; she was quite familiar with unpredictable weather, but, in her blind excitement at the idea of seeing her boyfriend again after months apart, the idea that Mother Nature could interrupt and ruin her plans had never occurred to the college senior. She knew that life and its complications could jump up and stagger you at anytime, but stopping her on New Year's Eve from seeing the man she loved was just plain cruel and unusual punishment in the brunette's eyes.
So, while she sat in a very uncomfortable, plastic chair, blubbering into her favorite t-shirt and forever ruining it, she was going to miss her chance to render Lucky speechless, she was going to miss the ever important first kiss of the New Year, and she was going to miss the good omen that first kiss brought to a couple. In fact, she was so caught up in feeling sorry for herself, that the artist missed the tall, brooding stranger approaching her, not realizing he was there at her side until his hand fell softly to her quivering back, startling her. If nothing else, though, at least the shock was enough to stop her tears.
"Are you alright?"
Elizabeth lifted her gaze to meet the man's beside her. After several blinks, during which they remained shoulder to shoulder in silence, she was able to focus her eyes. The guy standing there was tall, intimidating in his strength and size but not menacing or frightening. While his eyes were blue, like her own, they were of a lighter shade and so alert and in tune with everything surrounding them, Elizabeth immediately sat up a little bit straighter and attempted to appear a little bit more put together. His brow was proud, his nose crooked with what reminded her of a hint of her own mischievousness, his cheekbones high and authoritative, his lips, though set in a kind line, strong and dependable, never moving from the strain of unnecessary words. Basically, he was gorgeous, and her hands were practically itching for the chance to paint him.
Not that it mattered… She loved Lucky, Lucky loved her, and she was in that damn airport crying and attracting the stranger's attention in the first place because she was trying to go see her boyfriend and being prevented from doing so. However, that didn't mean she couldn't look, appreciate, and then sigh once in dejection and misery before forgetting her attraction to the unknown man.
"No," the brunette pouted, her plump lips trembling as her body threatened to start crying again. "I'm not alright; everything is ruined." Never one to be coy or to withhold either the truth or her feelings, she simply shared honestly with the older man.
Instead of taking the bait she dangled in front of him though and asking her what had upset her, the man simply sat down in the chair beside her, its bland coloring and unpleasant confines an exact match for her own seat of torture. After several moments of nothing, she decided to press on in her explanation without prompting from the stranger. "My plane got grounded here because of the storm. When we left Colorado, there wasn't a snow flake in sight fluttering over New York; the air hadn't even smelled like snow at that point, but, three hours later, here I sit, my flight grounded to the point I'll be lucky to even get to Port Charles before the next New Year's Eve. So, now," she rambled on, waving her hands in an unconscious display of agitation and annoyance, "my surprise for my boyfriend is ruined, we'll never see each other again, and I wasted my rent money on nothing. Auld acquaintances should not be forgot. Do you know what should be forgotten," she questioned him, never giving the man a chance to respond. "This damn holiday should be. Whoever heard of such stupid traditions? Pork roast and sauerkraut, do people actually enjoy eating that stuff? And don't even get me started on the whole kissing at midnight idea. What are you supposed to do if you have a cold or if you got trapped in the bathroom just when the clock struck twelve? What about if your date has bad breath or you accidentally fell asleep before midnight? What's a girl supposed to do if she's in a long distance relationship? Fly out to see her boyfriend on a whim and get stuck in an airport or give up, say to herself, 'screw this year, I'll get him the next time,' and, instead, go to bed with a pint of Moose Tracks and her favorite stuffed animal?" Leaving sorrow behind for anger, Elizabeth pushed herself out of her chair, stood up, and began to pace the aisle in front of where the stranger remained sitting. "Tell me, what am I supposed to do?"
"You could take the bus to Port Charles or call a cab. The storm's not bad enough to shut the roads down. It might take you a couple of hours, but you'll get there eventually."
"And I would," she agreed with the older man's suggestion, "except I have a total of twenty-eight cents in my purse, and my bank account is overdrawn."
Exhaling harshly, he stood up and proceeded to turn his back towards the young artist. When he went to walk away, Elizabeth opened her mouth to ask him where he was going, but his next words stopped her in her tracks. "Are you coming?"
"To Port Charles," he replied, glancing over his shoulder in her direction. "That is where you said you were headed, right?" For the first time since he sat down next to her, she chose to respond silently, simply nodding her head instead of talking. "Well, I'll drive you," the stranger offered.
"Oh, I couldn't ask you to go out of your way."
"You didn't," he reassured her, "and you're not. Let's go," he waved her on, attempting to urge her into moving. "You wanted to see your boyfriend at midnight, right, and time doesn't wait… not even for you."
And, just like that, the brunette's almost perpetual smile was back upon her youthful face. Zipping her suitcase, she went to trail after the older man, dragging the luggage loudly behind her. "I can't believe it," she exclaimed excitedly. "Just when I had given up hope, you came stomping in, grumbled a little bit under your breath, and voila! My plan, all of a sudden, is back on." Scrambling after him, she pressed. "You have no idea how much I appreciate this. It's been over seven months since I last saw Lucky, seven months. That's enough time to run off, join the circus, get married, get pregnant, and completely change your life, you know, and I went that long without seeing the man I'm in love with." Changing topics rapidly, she asked him. "Are you dating anyone? Is that why you're driving to Port Charles, to surprise your girlfriend?"
Instead of answering her, the man lifted her hand from her suitcase's handle and picked it up himself, increasing their speed after they began moving again. "What did you do that for," Elizabeth queried.
"I'm in a hurry."
"Oh, so you do have a girlfriend."
"No," the stranger finally replied. "I just really don't want to get stranded with you during the middle of a snow storm. My ears aren't used to this kind of abuse."
Unapologetically, the artist stated, "yeah, I tend to ramble when I get nervous."
"You don't say." She knew that he hadn't intended his words to be comical, but she couldn't help herself. His dry, sarcastic tone made her giggle, and, astonishingly enough, her giggles made a ghost of a smile appear on the older man's face. "By the way, what the hell do you have in this thing," he questioned her, referring to her luggage. "Bricks?"
"Actually, that's one thing I didn't pack – bricks – well, bricks and Kleenexes."
Shaking his head in an amused manner, he teased, "good to know."
After that, they quickly fell into a pattern. While Elizabeth would talk, blathering on about her relationship with Lucky, her art, or even the oddities of life, the stranger would listen, rarely offering her a comment in return, but she didn't mind. Just knowing that he was paying attention and contemplating the things she spoke of was enough for her. In fact, she became so lost in their almost-one sided conversation, she never even realized just how crazy it was for her to accept a ride from someone she had never bet before, but, then again, in her world, Imogene meant crazy, so it was only par for the course.
7, 6, 5, 4…
"So," he drawled out that one word before continuing. "This is it."
"Yep," Elizabeth responded elatedly, practically jumping in the passenger seat. "This is it; this is where Lucky lives."
"The house looks dark."
"But what if your boyfriend isn't home," the stranger suggested. Apparently, he was in the mood to play Devil's Advocate.
"It's New Year's Eve, and he thinks that his girlfriend is tucked away safely in her studio apartment in Colorado. Where else would he be?"
He scratched the side of his face, tipping it to eye her crookedly. "Maybe he went out with some friends."
"No one goes out with friends on New Year's Eve," the brunette argued. "Everyone pairs off into couples, so, if you go out with friends and you're either single or not with your significant other, you end up feeling like the third wheel, and who wants that?"
"I don't know," the older man contended. "It would probably be better than staying at home by yourself."
"And what, watch Dick Clark not age?" Elizabeth laughed at the idea, unlocking the door and opening it. As he got out to help her with her suitcase, she continued. "Thank you for giving me a ride. Not only did you save my night, but you might have saved my entire year. You know what they say, how you spend New Year's is how you'll spend the next twelve months."
"They say that, huh?"
"Of course they do," she giggled, rolling her eyes at the stranger. Sometimes she found herself wondering about him – wondering if he lived in a cave or had just hatched from a pop culture deprived shell. "Anyway," she switched mindsets, "thanks again." Throwing caution to the wind, she dropped her luggage and launched herself into the older man's embrace, hugging him tightly and kissing his shadowed cheek. "I'll never forget you, what you did for me, or the way you drove eighty-five the whole way here despite the road conditions."
As soon as the artist pulled away from him, he crossed his arms in front of his leather jacket encased chest and looked down upon her. "I don't care what you say. I'm waiting here to make sure you get inside safely. You've already been stranded once this evening, and not even I'm cruel enough to leave you here stranded again for another poor, unsuspecting sucker to find you."
"Very funny," Elizabeth mocked, sticking her tongue out at the stranger. "But stay if you must. I just hope you don't mind PDA."
With that, she pivoted around on the heel of her boot and marched up the slick sidewalk of her boyfriend's house, her beat-up, over-stuffed, second-hand suitcase lumbering behind her. Approaching Lucky's door, she stripped off her gloves by using her teeth, allowing the soft, knitted material to flutter down and land on the snow covered porch. They would be there later, and, after she got her New Year's Eve kiss, she would pick them up then. After knocking, she waited for him to answer the door, but, when he didn't, her excitement waned into impatience, so she knocked again, much more insistent the second time. Finally, just as she was about to knock for a third time, the door swung open, revealing not only the man she was in love with but also his tousled hair, swollen lips, shirtless chest, and his other girlfriend's arms wrapped around his waist.
"Uh… Elizabeth," he gasped, dumbfounded and nervous from her sudden appearance before him. In that moment, the brunette realized that she had succeeded with her goal; she had managed to render Lucky speechless. "What are you doing here?"
She didn't know where the idea came from, what made her do it, or why the stranger went along with it, but, evidently, her crazy gene decided to kick in again, and, instead of crying like she felt like doing, the college senior smirked at her now ex-boyfriend, turned back around, and ran to the man who had driven her from New York City up to Port Charles, yelling back towards her cheating significant other her the entire way down the sidewalk. "I came here to do this, to show you that we're over. Unfortunately," she pretended to pout, "you beat me to the punch."
Without any more preamble, she attacked the stranger from the airport, locking her arms around his neck and pulling his mouth down to hers as she kissed him with all the pent up emotion she had inside of her, with every dream she had once had of sharing with Lucky, and with every once of attraction she had immediately suppressed for the older blonde. His lips opened almost instantly for hers, and, as her tongue dipped into his mouth to mingle, dance, and tease his own, she heard the faint, almost unrecognizable sounds of her former boyfriend's front door closing behind her, but, in that moment, she didn't care. All she could care about was how good it felt to kiss the stranger, how different his kisses were from Lucky's, and how no one had ever kissed her with such abandon, such passion before. The kiss was all consuming and addictive, and, when she felt the older man pull away from her, she became bereft at the loss of his touch.
Taking her hand without a word, he led her back to his truck, opening her door and helping her inside before jogging around the massive vehicle and climbing in himself. Neither of them said anything further as they pulled away from the curb, leaving her suitcase to gather snow on the front porch of her ex's house. Despite what others would say and despite what she knew herself to be wise, Elizabeth trusted the stranger. She believed that he would never hurt her. Foolish or not, on that cold, unforgiving night in a town she was unfamiliar with, the man beside her was the only thing, the only person she had to depend on, and, for the twenty-two year old, he was enough.
3, 2, 1…
The past hour of her life seemed like a dream, a blur of disjointed images that should have fit together to tell a story but only managed to hint at the tale they were supposed to tell. No matter what she did, Elizabeth could not figure out how she had gone from having her heart torn out by the man she loved to being wrapped up in a stranger's very soft, very comfortable, very expensive sheets in his equally soft, equally comfortable, and equally expensive bed – his extremely big bed. Not that she truly minded…
She saw herself in the car with the man she had met at the airport that evening, his hand resting extremely high on her jean covered thigh as they made their way towards his apartment. In fact, she could still feel the imprint of his large palm and fingers on her leg, their heat and strength singeing a path straight to her very core. Every few minutes he had squeezed her thigh, the action a promise of more sensual things to come and, boy, had he come through on his promise.
She saw herself pressed up against the wall of the stranger's stairway, her scarf, coat, sweater, and bra discarded and littering the path they had taken to reach the landing between the older man's first and second floors of what was his penthouse apartment. Her head was thrown back in ecstasy, her lids clasped tightly shut because of the sensations the blonde was creating in her body, the sensations that were threatening to pull her over and under into a sea of lust and delight, as he ravaged her bare breasts, nipping, laving, kissing, sucking the firm, creamy mounds and their dusty peaks.
She saw herself tearing at the stranger's belt, ripping it from his loose blue jeans before whipping it aside and zeroing in on her target, unclasping his pants' button and lowering their zipper. Immediately, her hands had shoved the fabric down his lean hips, letting the clothes pool at his still booted feet. Never had she been in such a rush to be with a man; never had she felt so alive, so free, so unapologetically dangerous. It had been a rush, one she knew she would not be able to go through life without experiencing again and soon.
She remembered butterfly kisses against her abdomen, his teeth nipping at her earlobe, the sound of her whimpers and mews of pleasure as she crested over the first peak of orgasm and spiraled out of control towards the second, his tight grip on her ass as he carefully pushed his way into her for the first time, the taste of him in her mouth and the smell of their sex surrounding them, the glow of the hallway light as it dared to encroach upon the stranger's darkened bedroom, his spiked hair tickling her inner thighs as he moved between her legs, the rip of the foil package as she tore the condom from its wrappings, the feeling of their chests intimately pressed together, his form rigid and unyielding crushed to her supple and heaving body, and she remembered that he was still there, resting unabashedly naked beside her as they both attempted to regain their breath after what she now considered the best sex of her life.
"Well," the artist mused, rolling over to lay on her side as she propped her head up with one hand and held the other one out towards the stranger for him to shake. "I guess I should introduce myself. My name's Elizabeth, Elizabeth Webber."
With a smirk, he replied, "Jason." Taking her hand in his, he curled their fingers together before startling her and turning them over. In one fluid movement, he ripped the sheet away from her body and pinned her beneath him, sliding inside of her as he finished his introduction. "Jason Morgan."
Sighing in contentment, the brunette raised her hips to meet the older man's thrusts. Immediately, they found their rhythm. As they moved together, taking their time during their second round, she thought about the way her plan for that evening had turned out. Call her crazy, but she had a feeling it was one holiday she would never soon forget.
Happy New Year's!