Chapter 46

She moved with all the enthusiasm of someone on her way to the gas chamber. Carly Roberts ascended each step slowly, as though movement was a difficult and painful thing. She stopped at the top of the stairs and looked out over the area.

Mayberry, Walnut Grove and Mister Rogers neighborhood… That's what the place brought to mind. It was the kind of place where kids would spend their days playing stickball and only run home to their parents when the awakening street lights signaled. It was the kind of place where life was simple and no one was concerned with anything more than what was for dinner that night.

It was a place Carly just didn't feel she fit in.

For several minutes the young woman stood at the entrance with her hand upon a doorknob well worn with use. A tiny breeze teased the ends of her blonde hair and blew them dancing into her face. Carly took a deep breath, turned the knob and stepped diffidently inside. “Hello, Mama,” she called out.

At the sound of her daughter's voice, Bobbie Spencer spun around from the window. “Carly!”

Carly accepted her mother's embrace cautiously. Her relationship with Bobbie was a delicate balancing act that did not always succeed. Far too often their overtures toward one another resulted in failure. Therefore Carly chose to always expect the worse.

Bobbie peered around Carly. “Where is my grandson? Where is Michael?”

“He's at home with AJ.” Carly carefully hid the acute disappointment she felt at her mother's query. Just once she would have like Bobbie to be satisfied with her daughter's presence alone. “It is still too soon for him.”

“I would never hurt Michael! AJ is just trying to punish me, Carly!” Bobbie marched angrily into the living room. Her shoulder length red curls bounced with every step. “Does he even care that Michael must be wondering why I haven't seen him in months?”

Carly felt her anger and resentment grow with each word her mother spoke. Once again Bobbie put her in the unwelcome position of defending AJ. “Actually, I meant it was too soon for Michael . But even if AJ had said ‘no' to Michael coming, you can hardly blame him. You helped me keep Michael away from AJ for the first four years of his life.” Carly recited a familiar refrain. “AJ doesn't trust you.”

“How convenient,” Bobbie reminded the young woman tartly, “that you have forgotten that I only went along with your …plan because I was trying to show you some support. Now I seem to be the only one suffering the consequences.”

Two laughing nurses made their way along a corridor on the second floor of General Hospital. Their white rubber-soled Birkenstock Bostons thudded dully upon the polished floor. “Girl, he had oil underneath his fingernails!” one laughingly explained to the other. “You know I can't stand …”

The sound of their muffled laughter faded away as they continued on their way down the corridor. When they could no longer be heard, a shadowy figure, pressed just inside the nearby stairwell, eased into view. Carefully, he surveyed the corridor from one end to the other and nodded quickly when his eyes fell upon the objects of his search.

Cautiously he moved down the empty corridor. His ears strained constantly for the sound of someone approaching.

Tommy Hardy dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a wad of neatly folded dollar bills. He flipped through the various denominations, bypassing those bearing the likenesses of Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson or Ulysses Grant, and chose several single dollar bills instead.

Still on the alert for company, he fed the dollar bills into the slot of the newly stocked vending machine. Brightly packed cupcakes and tightly sealed packs of potato chips and chocolate chip cookies fell one after the other into the collecting bin at the bottom of the machine. Tommy retrieved his purchases and stuffed them inside his jacket. He had just dropped the first quarter into the soft drink machine when the sudden sound of muted conversation only feet away caught him off guard.

There was no time to retreat, so Tommy quickly flipped up the collar of the thick jacket he wore. Hunching his shoulders and pulling down the brim of the baseball cap he wore, the young man tried to cover as much of his identity as possible. If he was not mistaken one of the subdued voices coming his way was the very person he had sneaked into General Hospital to see.

A flash of color just around the corner alerted Tommy that the pair was almost upon him. He quickly dropped the remaining quarters into the slot and blindly pressed the button for his selection of soft drink. As the sound of the falling can echoed in his ears, he bent over, stuck his hand into the slot and slowly retrieved his drink.

The passing pair did not notice him. They went on their way without even a glance in his direction. Tommy Hardy straightened up and from a discreet distance began to follow.

‘I seem to be the only one suffering the consequences.'

Bobbie's words stiffened Carly's spine like an iron rod. The young woman gaped in disbelieving anger. Surely her mother had not intended to utter such stupid words?

You are the only one suffering the consequences?!” Carly's voice rose with every word that fell from her lips. “Michael has not slept one full night since it all happened!”

“Of course I didn't mean Michael,” Bobbie quickly replied. “No one, especially a little boy like him, should have to go through what he has. I meant everyone else.”

“Everyone else…” Carly's expression hardened and her nostrils flared. “You mean, like me.”

Bobbie saw no point in biting her tongue. It was clear from her daughter's expression that things between them this visit had turned sour. “Yes,” she agreed frankly. “You and Jason, with Sonny's help of course, decided to keep Michael away from AJ. But somehow, you walk away from the resulting catastrophe without a scratch.”

“I am-“

“Oh, please, Carly!” The older woman cut her off. “Despite everything you did to him, AJ Quartermaine still has feelings for you. He didn't have to let you be such a big part of Michael's life. The judge granted him sole custody . But there you are living in the Quartermaine mansion while AJ jumps through hoops to care for you and Michael.”

Bobbie laughed bitterly. “I, on the other hand, have been banned from my grandson's life and lost a couple of dear friends in the process.” She met Carly's gaze head-on. “So yes, I will say again that I seem to be the only one suffering.”

Tommy watched as his grandmother settled in behind the circular desk of the Nurses' station. Audrey Hardy was his paternal grandmother, related to him by that sorry excuse she called a son – the great doctor Tom Hardy. Wonderful doctor Tom Hardy.

The young man felt his anger rise. So great was his resentment toward the man who had fathered him and then deserted his mother Simone, that the actual tips of his ears burned.

A crunching sound drew Tommy's attention and he glanced down at a fist clenched so tightly that the package of cookies he held was nothing but crumbs. With tremendous effort, he relaxed his fingers and immediately took a moment to perform a deep breathing exercise he had learned from Doctor Rachel Locke , his therapist back home.

Tommy's surroundings faded into the background as he concentrated on nothing else but willing his red-hot anger to subside. Before the therapy sessions his mother had insisted on, Tommy's anger was a volatile and nearly unmanageable thing. Minor things infuriated the young man and he got into fight after fight in school.

After twice breaking his right wrist while punching a brick wall, Tommy's mother had seen enough. Simone demanded that he get help controlling his anger before someone got seriously injured. She was nearly two inches shorter than Tommy, yet she had stood toe-to-toe with her resentful offspring and laid down her demands.

He definitely had not appreciated her actions then. But over time, his sessions with Doctor Locke had borne fruit. Tommy was able to recognize and control his anger before it got out of hand. Like now.

Just as the therapist had instructed, Tommy concentrated on nothing but controlling his anger and directing it toward the person who truly deserved it. A crystal clear image of his father materialized in his mind and Tommy imagined himself smashing his fist over and over into the handsome face until it was unrecognizable.

Peace came over him and his anger was once again under control.

Tommy turned his attention back to the Nurses' station where his grandmother stood diligently working. Though he could not see her as clearly as he would have liked, his vantage point was close enough to make out some changes in her. She had aged a lot since the last time they were together as a family. For the first time in Tommy's life, Audrey appeared frail and vulnerable.

And why wouldn't she, the young man thought. When Audrey lost his grandfather Steve, she lost her sole source of support and comfort. Her stepson Jeff Webber was heaven knows where about the globe, and her son Tom…. Well, there was no point in reviewing just how pointless a human being his father was.

Tommy regretted for a moment his decision not to inform his grandmother that he was in Port Charles. No matter what the situation between he and his father, the young man truly believed that Audrey's love for him had not wavered. It would be nice to relax in the comfort of her affection for him, and to allow her to know that the love was returned.

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*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*