Andresj’ immediately had the attention of the room’s two occupants. “I apologize for interrupting your discussion, but I am attempting to locate Sabrina. Her suite of rooms is empty and all her things are gone. Would either of you know where she might be?”
Alexis and Stefan exchanged glances. “Is there a problem that I can handle for you?” Alexis asked. She pushed her glasses up onto her head and peered at her nephew.
“There is no problem. I merely wanted to speak with her. It has been several days since I did so.” Andresj’ pressed on. He had not missed the quick silent exchange that passed between his father and aunt. “Did you and Sabrina have a disagreement, Papa?”
Stefan put down his fountain pen and gave his younger son his complete attention. “What would lead you to such an assumption?” He did not know if Andresj’ was aware how accurate his instinct was.
“Sabrina would not leave Wyndemere without saying goodbye to me. Even those times when her work called her to inaccessible parts of the globe, she has managed to let me know.” Andresj’ met his father’s gaze. “She would not simply leave.” The young man glanced briefly at Alexis. “And though you and Sabrina argue on a daily basis, Thea, there is only one person here who can anger Sabryn enough to drive her away.”
His son’s politely couched reproach confirmed for Stefan that he had been correct in his decision to enforce a bit of emotional distance between Andresj’ and Sabrina. He was not naïve enough to believe that he could lessen their considerable bond. But a reminder was needed for them both that Stefan was – and would always be – the ultimate authority where his son was concerned.
“Did you argue with Sabrina, Papa?”
It was only Alexis’ considerable training that kept the absolute shock off her face when Stefan chose to respond to his son’s pointed question.
“I did not argue with Sabrina,” Stefan replied calmly. “She did not agree with the manner in which I handled a particular situation and found herself unable-“
‘Unwilling, you mean,’ Alexis could not help thinking.
“-to acknowledge my authority there.”
“Was I the ‘particular situation’ on which you disagreed?”
Andresj’ had reached the end of his father’s cooperative mood. “Whatever the subject of my disagreement with Sabrina,” Stefan said, “it will remain between Sabrina and myself.” He picked up his fountain pen and gave Alexis a brief nod. The dismissive gesture was a clear indication that Stefan’s conversation with his younger son was ended.
Diane hesitantly followed the cheerful butler through the Quartermaine mansion. Now that she was actually on the premises, she was having second thoughts.
“Straight on through there.” Reginald pointed toward a set of glass doors polished so crystal clear that it was a bit difficult to actually see them. “Miss Lila is in her rose garden.”
“Thank you, Reginald.” Diane made her way through the room and then outside. The warmth of the sun’s rays immediately dispelled the slight chill. “Hello, Miss Lila.”
Lila Quartermaine slowly maneuvered her motorized wheelchair around. Worn cotton work gloves covered her soft, blue-veined hands and she wore a thick black sweater against the bite of the wind. “Hello, my dear.” Her frail voice still carried a hint of the strength she was known for among her family. “Did Justus bring you by for a visit?”
“No,” Diane replied cautiously. “I came alone. I hope that isn’t a problem?”
“Of course not, my dear.” Lila invited the young woman to take a seat on the weathered stone bench situated in the middle of her rose garden. “You are welcome here anytime.”
Diane shook her head at the absolute beauty of the roses all around them. “I don’t think that I have ever seen such beautiful, perfect roses!”
“Thank you,” Lila replied. “All it takes is a little time and attention. Do you have a garden back where you’re from?"
Diane shook her head. “I am a hazard to living things,” she explained wryly. “My friends all say that my house is the place perfectly healthy green plants go to die.”
Lila clucked reprovingly. “Young people today are in such a hurry,” she observed. “None of you take the time to just enjoy the wonderful things that are right in front of you.”
The old lady angled her chair away and began to fuss with the leaves of a nearby rosebush. “Take Justus, for instance. Justus is a wonderful young man, as much my grandson as Ned or AJ or Jason. But he works too much and spreads himself far too thin. Between his work for the family business and the time he puts in for the people of the community, Justus has very little time left over for himself.” Lila gave Diane a stern look. “That dear boy needs someone who won’t be intimidated by how mature he is. He needs someone who will stand up to him and remind him to slow down and enjoy life.”
Diane felt her face grow warm. She got the feeling that Lila somehow sensed her growing feelings for Justus.
“Don’t be afraid to be that someone,” Lila responded as though she had read Diane’s mind. “Loving a man like Justus would be a most wonderful thing.”
It had been obvious to Alexis that Andresj’s inquiries had left his father distracted. She’d excused herself from Stefan’s presence and suggested that they discuss the paperwork at a later date.
Stefan had offered no objection. His thoughts were filled with the angry words he had exchanged with Sabrina days earlier over her concern for his younger son.
In silence Sabrina and Stefan stood at the rail of the launch. When they were mere feet from docking at Spoon Island, the young woman spoke. Her words were calm and measured, but there was no mistaking the undercurrent of anger they contained.
“It is ironic that you should remind me that Andresj’ is your son. Perhaps it is you who needs a history lesson of your own.”
To an outside observer, it would have been difficult to believe that the two occupants of the launch were even aware of each other’s presence, much less engaged in conversation.
“All those years ago,” Sabrina continued calmly, “when you were secretly grieving over Laura’s desertion, I was getting to know Andresj’.”
“And when you were hanging around Nikolas hoping that Helena would grant you some little crumb of his childhood, I was doing my best to make sure Andresj’ felt secure among us.”
“And while you were focused on everything else in your life, I was making sure ‘Dre knew he was loved.”
Sabrina turned angry eyes Stefan’s way. “So maybe you are the one who should remember something. He was mine first.”
Emily Quartermaine stopped just inside the door to the family living room. Diane Jennings, her cousin Justus’ newest girlfriend, sat alone on the couch.
Diane was a really pretty woman, Emily thought, as she observed her unaware. Diane’s straight, dark hair framed a face delicately composed of fine porcelain-like features. Standing next to Justus, she would probably appear even more slender than she was.
“Hi.” Diane looked back over her shoulder and returned Emily Quartermaine’s warm greeting. “If you’re looking for your grandmother, she just went into the kitchen to speak to the cook.”
“Are you joining us for lunch?”
Diane shrugged sheepishly. “Miss Lila wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Emily grinned. “That’s Grandmother for you. She might look frail and helpless, but the family all knows better. Grandmother is the most ruthless of us all. In a genteel kind of way,” Emily teasingly added. She took a seat on the couch beside Diane. “I am glad that you are joining us for lunch, though.”
Diane was curious about the flush that suddenly stained Emily’s cheeks. And a bit hesitant. She was not sure that she was prepared to dissect her stalled relationship with Justus among his family.
“Andresj’ Cassadine is a friend of mine,” Emily explained shyly. “He has been so happy since you came to Port Charles and delivered his mother’s letter.”
“And his happiness makes you happy?” Diane decided to borrow a page from the Quartermaine book and cut straight to the point.
“He’s my friend! O-of course I want him to be happy,” the young woman stammered. “It’s just that…”
Diane’s curiosity was piqued. “Just what?”
“I know the thing ‘Dre wants most is to know what his mother looked like and I thought that if you had a picture, maybe I could give it to him. From you, of course.” Emily’s words all came tumbling out in a rush.
“Andresj’ doesn’t have a picture of Alyse?” Emily shook her head. “I didn’t know that. Unfortunately, I don’t own a picture of his mother. But I’ll tell you what,” Diane said, noting Emily’s disappointment, “after lunch, you and I will work on it.”
The sting of Sabrina’s words was due to their truth. Stefan had been unable to do anything other than stand there on the launch beside the young woman and silently accept what she said.
His thoughts were immediately sent rushing back to the moment when he realized – with shame – how easily he had brought Andresj’ into the Cassadine fold and then put him out of his thoughts.
Slowly Stefan hung up the phone. Helena’s latest covert action left him feeling a bit uneasy. He rose from his bed and pulled on a silken robe. Perhaps a walk through the family’s wing of the estate would help to settle his disquiet.
He strode quietly first to the royal bedroom where Nikolas lay asleep. His dark hair was lightly tousled and he looked nothing more than the six-year-old child that he was.
Stefan smoothed out Nikolas’ hair and brushed his lips lightly against the little boy’s cheek. Though he knew his mother would not harm Nikolas, he felt a sense of relief in seeing him peacefully asleep.
He quietly closed the door behind him and traveled the two hundred or so feet to Andresj’s room. Andresj was not in his bed nor was he in the bathroom. Calmly Stefan stepped back into the hall. There was no need for alarm. The estate was enormous in size and security in the family wing was without flaw.
There was only one other occupied suite of rooms in that particular hallway. Stefan tapped lightly on Sabrina’s door before entering. He did not stand on ceremony where his younger cousin was concerned.
Seventeen-year-old Sabrina lay asleep on her side, her tawny locks spread across her pillow. Just as peacefully asleep beside her was Stefan’s young ward. He lay sprawled upon his back next to the barrier of down-filled pillows that Sabrina had constructed as a precaution against a possible fall from her bed. Perhaps Andresj’ had awakened from a nightmare and gone to Sabrina for comfort.
Stefan carefully eased the little boy from the bed. He draped his boneless body across his shoulder and carried Andresj back to his own bed. He tucked the little boy in, kissed him lightly on the forehead and then retired to his own bedroom for the night.
It had taken a single grudging, but enlightening conversation with Sabrina the next morning to discover that Andresj’ was a nightly visitor to the young woman's room.
Feeling an empathy with the little boy, Sabrina had made a conscious choice to provide him with the security and affection she felt were missing from his life. Security and affection, she glared angrily at Stefan, he should have been the one to provide.
*General Hospital and its characters are not mine. I make no profit from this. The characters Andresj' Cassadine, and Diane Jennings are my creation.*