Part One

Keesha sat quietly and concentrated on the music surrounding her. Thanks to her grandmother Mary Mae Ward, she had learned to find strength and comfort there. She would need it today, the day she said goodbye to Justus.

The very thought of her cousin threatened to expose the facade of calm she wore like a shroud. It was all Keesha could do not to scream at the injustice of it all. Instead, she strengthened her resolve to remain unfeeling throughout the upcoming days. There would be time enough to fall apart back home among her family in Philadelphia.

In three days, she would return there bearing the solid gold urn which held Justus' ashes. Edward Quartermaine had insisted on buying the most expensive urn available on the market. He refused to allow the mortuary employees to make use of the burnished bronze urn that Sonny Corinthos and Jason Morgan had chosen. On that one point, Edward and Keesha agreed.

Be civil, she reminded herself. If Sonny and Jason showed up today - and she had no doubt that they would - then she would be polite. After all, unlike Jason's situation, Justus was a grown man who had made his own decisions. He was as much to blame for what happened to him as his Mob compatriots.

A shuffle of feet behind her alerted her to the presence of someone else. Opening her eyes, she turned and looked into the concerned face of Alan Quartermaine, Jr. Clean-shaven and dressed in a dark suit, he had obviously made a tremendous effort on her behalf. Gone was the unkempt, inebriated man who passed for AJ lately. Keesha could not help but smile.

"AJ! You look wonderful," she praised him.

"Yeah, well, Justus was always a good friend and cousin to me. I owe him this." He sat down beside her and took her hand. "And I didn't want to add to your troubles."

"Thank you," Keesha said simply. "I am glad you came."

"You were always there for me." AJ stared at the large portrait of Justus displayed on the stand nearby. The smile he wore seemed genuine and unforced. "That must have been made from the photograph that Grandfather has in his bedroom."

"Edward did handle this part," Keesha confirmed. "I didn't know he even had a picture of Justus beside the ELQ shareholder photo."

"No, this was his favorite picture." AJ shook his head ruefully. "You know, I asked him once just what I had to do to make him feel that way about me." He paused. "He didn't have an answer."

"Oh, AJ," Keesha cried.

"Hey!" he corrected her, placing an arm about her shoulders. "Today is not about me. Really," he insisted, determined to make Keesha believe him. "Cause no matter how Grandfather tried to pit us against one another, Justus never made me feel anything less than his family." AJ joked weakly, "Even when he was telling me just how much I never deserved you."

Keesha looked around the room. Elaborate flower arrangements crowded the room. Cards and telegrams, both personal and professional, spilled over the decorative container in which they were placed. "Somehow, none of this feels real to me. I keep expecting Justus to stroll in here and call me 'Lil Bit'." Keesha confided to AJ, "A part of me never wants to accept that he's gone." The hand holding AJ's began to shake. "What am I going to do?"

"Keesha?" Dara's voice was hesitant. She did not want to intrude on the younger woman's privacy. "I wanted the opportunity to see you before the service began, to let you know that you are in my thoughts. I know how much you loved Justus."

"Thank you," Keesha replied, standing to embrace the other woman. AJ moved discreetly off to the side. "It means a lot that you've come today."

"Justus and I had our differences, but I believe that he was a good man who just lost his way." Dara squeezed Keesha's hand. "You know that if you need anything, you only have to call us."

"I know. Is your husband going to attend?" She quickly surveyed the room. People had quietly begun to file in. The former Assistant District Attorney shook her head. "His mind is totally on this case. There's no disrespect intended toward you or your family," she hastened to add. "He just thinks that he can be more productive from the outside looking in."

"I hope he's right," Keesha commented. "I believe that if he really wants to find out who's responsible for this, he should just look over there."

Dara's eyes moved to the doorway where Sonny Corinthos and Jason Morgan stood framed by a bevy of guards. "Do you know something?" she carefully asked the angry young woman.

"Not now," Keesha admitted. "But I guarantee you I will."

Prologue~ | ~Next Chapter