Audrey Hardy stared down the hallway. Her fingers nervously traced the lace doilies draped lovingly across the arms of her comfortable armchair.
She waited in silence for her grandson Tommy to emerge from the guest room that he used during visits. Though he had not been heard from in several hours, Tommy was a frequent visitor to Audrey’s refrigerator over the course of the day. It was only a matter of time before he made a trek there once more.
Normally, Audrey would have just summoned Tommy to join her in the family living room. But after the young man’s angry outburst earlier that week, Audrey was hesitant to cause him any more upset.
Still, Tommy was bound to be upset at the upcoming conversation. Audrey had deliberated for days before deciding to take a stand with her troubled young grandson. With Simone’s approval, Audrey prepared to lay down the conditions of Tommy’s stay in Port Charles.
Audrey rose and resolutely made her way to Tommy’s room. Contrary to her expectations, the door was thrown wide open. Brilliant sunlight streamed in through the outer windows and chased away any corners of darkness.
“Did you need something, Grandma?” Tommy’s pleasant question came from the far end of the room. He sat, almost painfully upright Audrey noticed, on a corner of the bed.
“I wanted to speak with you,” Audrey explained. “I hope that I didn’t interrupt you, though.”
“That’s okay.” Tommy placed his tablet and pen down on the bed beside him. “I can finish this later.”
Audrey took a seat on the bed beside her grandson. She absently picked up Tommy’s tablet in order to move closer to the young man. “Oh, my dear, I’m sorry!” Audrey’s hands fluttered nervously in the air. “I wasn’t trying to read your papers!”
“I am sorry, Grandma,” Tommy apologized stiffly. “I didn’t mean to grab them from your hands that way.” His eyes did not quite meet Audrey’s. “Its just that what’s on here is only for me to see. The doctor suggested it as part of my anger management,” he added reluctantly.
“I would never violate your privacy. And I don’t want to interfere with your doctor’s suggestions.” Audrey hesitated. “But I am concerned about you, sweetheart. Would you please do me a favor while you are here?”
“I am sorry that I am late.” Nikolas Cassadine flashed an apologetic smile. “Andresj’ had guests and our father was not on the island, so I thought it prudent to remain awhile.”
Elizabeth Weber smiled quietly. “I can always tell when you have been taking care of your brother. Your speech gets all proper, like it was when you first arrived here in Port Charles.” She cocked her head to one side. “Why is that?”
Nikolas thought about Elizabeth’s question as he removed and draped his outer jacket across the back of his chair. There were a myriad of reasons he could cite for the change in demeanor, but none he felt comfortable enough disclosing – even to Elizabeth, with whom he shared a bond of grief. “I could not say,” he finally settled on.
Nikolas grabbed a plastic coated menu and pretended to study it. He and Elizabeth took turns selecting a meeting place for their weekly outings. Invariably, Nikolas’ choices involved things like wine and linen napkins while Elizabeth’s usually involved paper towels and plastic utensils.
“I think it happens because that’s more like the real you. The true Nikolas, without all the layers you put on for everyone else in your life.”
Elizabeth must have sensed how uncomfortable the subject made Nikolas because she just nodded her head once and began to discuss their lunch options. In time their conversation turned to inconsequential matters and the touchy moment was forgotten. Other diners came and went as the two friends enjoyed a leisurely meal.
Elizabeth managed to convince Nikolas to sample a bit of mustard covered corn dog. His horrified grimace at the taste sent the young woman into a fit of muffled laughter. “You realize, of course,” he discreetly wiped his mouth, “that I will never trust your food suggestions in the future.”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Elizabeth protested. “Give it time. The taste will grow on you.”
Nikolas glared down at the offending food. “It will not get the chance to grow on me.”
“Hmm…I don’t know about that,” Elizabeth smirked. “Lulu loves them. She can’t wait to share them with her big brother Nikky.” The young woman ignored Nikolas’ agonized groan. “You know that you would eat a plateful of corndogs if Lulu wanted you to.”
Nikolas blushed slightly. There was no denying that his little sister held him wrapped about her little finger. Her unconditional love for Nikolas was one of the most precious things in his life.
The truth was that Nikolas treasured his relationships with both his younger siblings. When Lesley Lu and Andresj’ looked at him, what they saw was always the same. To LuLu he was Nikky; to Andresj’ he was Kolya. The names differed, but the dynamic remained the same. He was their big brother. Nothing more, nothing less.
“While you are here in Port Charles, I would like you to continue your anger management therapy with one of the doctors at General Hospital.”
“One of the doctors there, or one particular doctor there?”
Tommy Hardy stared at his grandmother for a moment. “Doctor Collins?” Audrey’s choice of therapists seemed to provide the young man with amusement. His lips curled up in a secretive smile. “Sure, Grandma,” Tommy readily agreed. “I will continue my therapy with Doctor Collins. No problem.” His brows rose. “Anything else?”
“N-no. That’s all. Thank you.” Audrey was nonplussed. She didn’t know what kind of reaction she had expected her grandson to have concerning her request, but it certainly wasn’t cheerful compliance.
“I can call and make the appointment,” Tommy offered. “I would just need you to give me the number to General Hospital’s front desk. I am sure that they have changed it since the time my mom worked there.”
Audrey hastily scrawled the phone number on the back of some junk mail on the table. As she wrote, she could feel Tommy’s gaze upon her. She sensed that her young grandson knew how off-balance she felt. But he made no comment about it.
“Doctor Kevin Collins, please. This is Tommy Hardy calling…Yes, Audrey’s grandson…”
Audrey stepped back and listened as Tommy conversed with Kevin Collins. He spoke calmly and knowledgably about the anger management therapy he had participated in back in Seattle. Audrey was amazed at the depth of Tommy’s knowledge of his condition. She was also saddened by it. He sounded more like a professional colleague of Kevin’s than a prospective teenaged patient.
“Hold on, she’s right here.” Tommy offered the phone to his grandmother. “Doctor Collins wants to discuss me now,” he explained with a trace of sarcasm. “I will just go to my room so the two of you can discuss me in peace.”
Nikolas took a deep breath and enjoyed the way the cooling air raced its way into his lungs. He turned to his companion. “So, where should I have the driver drop you? Your studio?”
“The flower shop just over on Baird Street, if it isn’t too much trouble.” Elizabeth Weber named a small but well-known little flower shop just three streets away from the diner where they had just eaten a late lunch.
Elizabeth allowed the chauffeur to assist her into the rear of the Cassadine limousine. She was not comfortable with such service, but allowed it in order not to make the driver’s job more difficult. “I am going to pick up some flowers to take to the cemetery. You’re welcome to come, of course. I am meeting Laura and Lesley Lu there.”
“I don’t wish to interrupt your traditional ‘girls-only’ time.”
Elizabeth was confused. “Girls only?” Realization dawned. “Oh! No, it just worked out that way. You know how your little sister is.” Elizabeth laughed. “This week she insisted that Laura and I go with her to leave flowers for Lucky. Last week Detective Taggert ended up going with them to the cemetery.”
She was so busy counting out dollar bills from her wallet that Elizabeth did not notice the way that Nikolas stiffened at her words. “Detective Taggert accompanied my mother and Lesley Lu to Lucky’s graveside?”
“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded. “LuLu was at the brownstone visiting Bobbie when Detective Taggert came in from work. A few minutes later he was pulling his jacket back on and agreeing to drive LuLu and your mother to the cemetery in his truck.”
The limousine pulled smoothly into the no-parking zone in front of the florist shop. “Here we are. I will just be a moment,” Elizabeth promised.
Nikolas blindly nodded his head. His thoughts were reeling from Elizabeth’s story. Laura had welcomed Marcus Taggert along on a trip to his brother’s graveside, yet had made excuses to deny Nikolas that same privilege. Now, Nikolas reflected bitterly, he understood the reasons for his little sister’s confusion during her school outing. Lesley Lu could not understand why Nikolas was not ending their day together by visiting the cemetery with them.
Nikolas struggled to subdue the enormous sense of grief he felt inside. Why, he wondered, did his mother continue to hurt him so?