Flame Turns Blue

Chapter 22

"Zander?"

 

He opened his eyes slowly and had to blink to focus on the face that hovered over him. Alexis. He realized he was lying down and he tried to sit up, but he was in restraints again. It was getting to be a bad habit. "What are you doing here?" Zander asked.

 

Alexis smoothed his hair back. "Do you remember what happened?"

 

"Vaguely." Zander remembered Monica's visit and punching a tree. After that it was kind of fuzzy. "How's the tree?"

 

"For the record, the tree won. You fractured your wrist."

Zander looked down to see that he was wearing a light cast on his right forearm. "Perfect."

 

Alexis sighed. "Dr. Murphy said you'll be wearing that for about a month. Other than that...how do you feel?"

 

"Tired." Zander closed his eyes. "How long have I been out?"

 

"Day and a half." Alexis pulled a stool over to the bed. "You had to be sedated a couple of times."

 

Zander heard disappointment in Alexis' voice and it brought tears to his eyes. "I'm sorry."

 

Alexis patted his shoulder. "What happened, Zander? You seemed to be doing better."

 

"Monica came to visit and she gave me a journal. Emily's journal. About me." Zander felt a tear slide down his cheek and he tugged at his restraints. He was grateful when Alexis undid his left arm so he could wipe his face. "She wants us to talk about Emily. I can't do that."


"You can't heal until you do, Zander," Alexis said softly as she undid the other strap.

 

Zander pushed himself up into a semi sitting position against the pillows. He ignored Alexis' statement. "Where is Dr. Murphy?" He knew that he would have to talk to her about this and he wasn't looking forward to it. But a part of him wanted to get it out of the way.

 

Alexis poured Zander a glass of water. "She's with another patient, but she told me to let the nurse know if you woke up." She held out the plastic cup.

 

"Thanks." Zander took a sip then nodded gave it back. "Thanks for coming too. I'm sorry that I keep messing things up."

 

"It's okay, kiddo. I look at it as you working things out. I know it's not going to happen overnight and it's not going to be easy."


Zander nodded. "Nothing has ever been easy for me."


Alexis smiled, then she acted on impulse and she wrapped her arms around Zander, hugging him to her. Then she felt his arms wrap around her and they stayed that way for a long moment, before Alexis pulled back and studied Zander's face. She smoothed back a stray lock of hair. "Hey…um…your father came with me. He'd really like to see you, Zander. He's worried about you."

 

"Bet he's disappointed...like you are." Zander couldn't keep the hurt out of his voice.

 

"He's worried, Zander," Alexis said firmly. "Just like I am. Neither one of us is disappointed in you. And I mean that. You scared me, but I'm not disappointed. Okay?"

 

Zander wanted to believe her, but he wasn't sure he could. Still, he forced a smile. "Yeah…okay."

 

Alexis stood moved towards the door. "I'll get your dad."

 

It seemed like only a moment passed before Cameron was in the doorway. Zander looked at his father, searching his face for disappointment. Surprisingly there was none. At least not that Zander could see. "Hi, Dad."

 

"Alex...Zander. Sorry." Cameron moved towards the bed. "How do you feel?" He looked at Zander's cast.

 

"Same as always," Zander replied. "Worn out. Sorry about the latest episode of *Zander trashes his life*. Boring repeat."

 

Cameron sat down on the stool. "Something must have set you off. Do you want to talk about it?"


Zander shook his head. "Nope. I don't want to talk. Not with you. Not with Dr. Murphy. Not at all."

 

"I wish there was something I could do to help, Zander."

 

"Yeah…me too." Zander could almost believe that his father was sincere. "Listen...uh...Alexis told me that you wanted an invite to visit me."


Cameron nodded. "I'd like to come up if you don't mind."


Zander rubbed a hand over his face. "Yeah...well...I guess it's okay, but not alot. I just...we don't really have alot to say to each other."


"You're wrong, Alex..Zander. Dammit!" Cameron rose from his chair and ran a hand through his hair. "I can't get used to calling you that. Zander is not your name. Alexander is all I have left to hold on to from your childhood."


"Call me whatever," Zander allowed. It didn't seem to matter anymore.

 

Cameron winced. "I don't want to lose the only tie I have left to you, Alexander. I can't do that. I won't do that. Because of my mistakes, I've lost you in so many ways. I said all the wrong things, Alexander. Things I regret with every fiber of my being. Things that I would give anything to be able to take back."


Zander locked eyes with his father. "Like telling me you wished I was dead? Like that, dad?"

 

"Yes…like that." Cameron shook his head. "You have no idea how sorry I am that I hurt you. But I was in shock seeing you at the PCPD, all strung out...self destructing. And all the guilt came rushing back in that instant. And I really thought, in that moment…I believed that it would be better for you to go on hating me. Only now I realize that you really do hate yourself more than I imagined. I thought that once I told you the truth about Peter, that you would be able to let go of the guilt. It was never your guilt to bear, Alexander. And, for the record...I told Police Commissioner Scorpio what I did hoping that he would lock you up for the night. So you wouldn't be able to hurt yourself any further. I just...I wanted you to survive."

 

"Gee...thanks." Sarcasm rolled off Zander in waves. "Your concern for me is touching."

 

Cameron sighed, then he paced a moment to regain his composure before facing off with his son. "You and I have alot to talk about, Alexander. Too many things have been left unsaid for too long. I know it won't be easy, but I want to talk about Peter and what happened. I want to explain to you why I made the choices that I did. Why I wasn't able to be a father to you."

 

Zander heard the pain in his father's voice and steeled himself against it. "You know...I don't want to know why!" he shot back. "It doesn't matter anymore. It won't change anything other than to let you off the hook, guilt wise. And I want you to feel guilty, dad. I want you to suffer!" The words were out before Zander could stop them.

 

"I know you do," Cameron whispered, reaching out to his son but freezing his hand when Zander glared at him. "I don't blame you either. And maybe that is a part of why I want to talk to you, why I want you to understand. But it's also because maybe if you understand why I did what I did,...maybe you can let go of some of your own pain and guilt. Maybe you can start to forgive yourself."

 

"Maybe I don't want to forgive myself!" Zander rubbed a hand over his face and it came away wet. He hadn't even realized he was crying.

 

Cameron shook his head. "Don't say that."


Zander glared at him. "Why not? I don't deserve forgiveness, dad. I don't."


"Emily thought you did." In a whisper, Cameron added, "So do I."


"Emily is dead!" Zander choked on the words. "Get out!"

 

Cameron hesitated. "Alexander.."


Zander grabbed the plastic cup on the nightstand and hurled it in his father's direction. "GET OUT!"

 

"Goodbye," Cameron whispered, as he turned for the door.

 

"Fuck you!" Zander screamed, but he knew it wasn't his father he was cursing.

 

* * * * *

 

"How's the arm?" Janice asked, as she entered Zander's room.

 

He had been trying to find a way to scratch inside the cast and he jumped at her words, feeling like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "It's fine."

 

Janice nodded then pulled a stool up next to the bed. "So...I hear things didn't go too well between you and your father."


"They never do."

 

"You have the power to change that, Zander."

 

He sighed and rubbed his temples. Lately a throbbing ache had taken up permanent residence there. "I'm not sure I want to change it. I've gone my whole life without a father, I don't need one now."


Janice locked eyes with Zander. "Are you sure about that?"

 

"I'm not sure about anything." Zander decided to try and change the subject. "So...when can I get out of here?"

 

"Maybe after we talk," Janice allowed. "I know you'll be more comfortable in your own room."

 

Zander nodded. "Yeah. I guess."

 

Janice folded her hands in her lap. "I need to know what set you off, Zander. We have to talk about it."


"I figured as much."


"So...what happened?"

 

Heaving a sigh, Zander steeled himself to tell the story again. "Emily's mother came to visit and she brought a journal that Emily started after she learned about her cancer. I guess it's about me and her feelings about us and stuff."

 

Janice nodded. "I saw the journal. It's in your room. And that set you off?"

 

"Monica wants me to read the journal and she wants me to talk to her about Emily." Zander felt a familiar pain welling up inside him and his good hand clenched into a fist. "I don't want to do that."


"Why not?"

 

Zander glared at Dr. Murphy. "I don't know why? I just don't! Okay?"

 

Janice shook her head. "It's not okay. There has to be a reason why it upsets you so much, Zander. I want to know what that reason is."

 

"I don't want to think about everything we did and everything she said. I don't want to remember Emily." Tears burned in Zander's eyes and he blinked them back.

 

"You know that there is nothing you can do or say to bring Emily back, so memories are all you have left, Zander. Don't blow them off so easily."

He closed his eyes. "I used to dream about Peter, after he died. He would talk to me in my dreams. He told me that he didn't blame me for what happened, and that dying didn't hurt. And that he wasn't scared being dead."

Janice leaned forward, her eyes focused on Zander's face. "Did those dreams help you to deal with Peter's death?"

 

"No." Zander opened his eyes and a broken laugh escaped him. "They made me miss him more. And they made me feel guilty, because I know Peter wouldn't have blamed me. It just made it worse. He loved me, so he didn't see who I really am. He didn't want to see the reject. The thug…the waste of space that I am."

 

"And you think that's what Emily wrote about you in her journal?" Janice guessed.

 

Zander shook his head. "Maybe. Or maybe she did see the truth and if she did, then it shatters the dream. My dream. Emily loved me when no one else would, and I'm not ready to share that with anyone, and I'm sure as hell not ready to let that go."


Janice reached out to touch Zander's arm, to offer a bit of comfort. "Or maybe what you read in the journal will help you to keep the dream alive, Zander. To keep Emily alive...in your heart."

 

"I'm tired," Zander whispered, closing his eyes again.

 

"Rest. When you wake up you need to eat something, then we'll see about moving you back to your room." Janice slid off the stool. "I'll check on you later.


Zander didn't reply. He just curled up on his side and squeezed his eyes shut to hold back the tears.

 

* * * * *

 

After sleeping for almost six more hours, and choking down half a sandwich and some orange juice, Zander was allowed to dress and return to his own room. He felt calmer the moment he entered the room, until he spotted the journal on the bedside table. Zander almost turned around and walked out, but then he felt himself drawn to it. If only because it was a part of Emily. Something she had touched that he could hold on to. Almost reluctantly, Zander reached for the journal. A wobbly smile curved his lips as he studied cover. It was purple and reminded Zander of grape pixie sticks. But that image set off a chain reaction of memories in his head and he tried to shake them off. But they wouldn't fade away so Zander let them drift over him, not quite letting them touch him. He tossed the journal back onto the table then he moved to the window and pressed his face against the glass. He closed his eyes and a lone tear slid down his face.

 

* * * * *

 

Zander was in the gardens when Lucky and Elizabeth stopped in for a visit. He was rather surprised to see them. Not Elizabeth so much as Lucky. "Hey," Zander greeted them. "Welcome to my world."


"Hi, Zander." Elizabeth greeted him with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "How are you doing?"

 

"I've been better...but I've been worse too." He smiled at her. "How are you doing? You look happy." Zander looked at Lucky who was smiling, then back at Elizabeth. Things going good for you two?"

 

Elizabeth nodded. "They're going great."


Zander smiled. "I'm happy for you. You deserve to be happy."

 

"Thank you." Elizabeth took Zander by the hand and led him over to a nearby bench. "You deserve to be happy too, Zander. I want that for you."

 

"Sounds good in theory," he replied, feeling too jumpy to sit for long. "So...any gossip?" Zander didn't want to let the conversation drift to Emily, and he knew that Elizabeth wanted to talk about her.

 

Lucky spoke up. "You're not going to believe this...but it looks like Sonny and Carly might split up."


Zander was stunned. "For real?"

 

"Could be. She almost moved out last week. And she goes out alot on her own now."

 

"Never thought that would happen." Zander hoped that Carly was okay. She had hurt him in the past, but in the end he understood why. He and Carly were alike in alot of ways. They both had a tendency to hurt themselves and the people they loved the most.

 

Elizabeth made a face at Lucky. "Who cares about Sonny and Carly?"

 

Zander laughed. "Sonny and Carly?" he teased, then he sobered. "Have you seen my dad around?"

 

"He comes into Kelly's for coffee in the morning," Elizabeth replied. "Sometimes with Alexis, sometimes alone. Hasn't he been up to see you?"

 

"Yeah...he came up once."


Elizabeth frowned. "That's it?"


Zander shrugged. "I pretty much told him not to come at all."


"Why?"

 

"Because all we do is fight and I'm tired of fighting." Zander began to pace. A part of him was glad to see Elizabeth, and even Lucky, but another part of him didn't want to deal with all the emotional baggage that came with them. Everyone and everything reminded him of Emily. Elizabeth and Lucky were Emily's friends first and foremost. Zander knew that he and Elizabeth had a bond of their own, that had nothing to do with them having had sex. But it was a bond that had been forged between two people who had been feeling hurt and alone. Not that he regretted the time he'd spent with Elizabeth, but sometimes he felt like Elizabeth was just another painful reminder of the way he had messed up his life. He didn't want to think that way, but he couldn't help it.


Elizabeth stepped in Zander's path. "Your father and I talk sometimes. He really cares about you, Zander. You should let him come up and you two should talk."


Zander shook his head. "Don't go there, Elizabeth…okay? Just...let it go." Zander turned to Lucky. "So...you two ever going to get married?"

 

"Change of subject much?" Lucky shot back, with a knowing grin.

 

"Help me out here, wouldja?"


Lucky moved to Elizabeth and wrapped an arm around her waist. "We've talked about it. We've got time."


Zander felt tears burn in his eyes and he blinked them back. "Sometimes you don't," he whispered, then he turned and he ran. He could hear Elizabeth calling his name, but Zander kept on running.

 

Elizabeth watched Zander slip out of sight. She wanted to go after him but Lucky held her back. "I need to talk to him!" she protested.


"You need to let him alone right now," Lucky replied. He sighed. "That was a stupid thing for me to say."

 

"It's okay." Elizabeth brushed away a tear then stepped off to the side of the path as a few patients strolled by, with a nurse in attendance. Elizabeth wondered if Zander even tried to make friends with anyone else here. He seemed so alone. So isolated. She ached for him. "Let's go home," she said to Lucky. And hand in hand they walked off.

 

* * * * *

 

Zander glared at Dr. Murphy.


She glared back. "You have to eat, Zander."

 

"I will…when I'm hungry."

 

"You haven't eaten anything in over thirty-six hours. You can't tell me that you're not hungry yet." Janice rubbed at her forehead and tried not to sigh.

 

Zander hoped he was giving her a headache. After he had run away from Elizabeth and Lucky, Zander had stayed away for several hours, which meant Dr. Murphy eventually sent two orderlies to find him. Then she had read him the riot act for missing his session. That had been yesterday and eventually Zander had wore her down and she had sent him back to his room, letting him off the hook for the session. Today he could tell she wasn't going to be so easy to wear down. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time. I eat when I'm hungry. I sleep when I'm tired. I don't need YOU to tell me what to do."

 

Janice locked eyes with Zander. "I see that you're feeling the need to test your limits today, Zander. See how far you can push me before I push back...is that it?"

 

"Maybe." He had gotten past the pain and the tears from yesterday and now Zander was feeling angry and itchy. Literally and figuratively. He was starting to feel trapped in this place, and trapped by his thoughts. Plus his cast was irritating his skin and he could reach the itch to scratch it. It was making Zander nuts. So at the moment he wanted to lash out at the world. He had been tempted to trash his room but he knew that would end with him being put in restraints, so Zander had resisted temptation. But pushing Dr. Murphy's buttons was turning out to be a good sport. For the moment. "Maybe I'm just having a bad day. That's allowed, isn't it? Don't you have bad days, doc?"

 

"Sure I do." Janice rose from behind her desk and moved to perch on the front of it. She watched Zander prowl the room. "It's come to my attention that your visits aren't very productive. Maybe we should put a ban on them temporarily."


Zander's first instinct was to protest, but he swallowed it. He knew she was testing him. "Do whatever you want. I don't give a damn if nobody ever came to visit. I'll be out of here soon anyway."

 

Janice smiled. "You think so?" She watched Zander freeze in his tracks.


"What's that supposed to mean?" Zander stalked over to her. "I'm stuck here for three months. That was the deal for signing myself in."

 

"It's the deal so long as I don't think you'll hurt yourself in some way. And as long as I feel you're mentally and emotionally competent." Janice held Zander's glare as she stated, "So far you're flunking out in the emotional area and the mental area is iffy."

 

Zander shook his head. "You're full of shit! I haven't tried to off myself since I got here!"

 

Janice felt a surge of triumph. "But you haven't tried to heal either. You're still walking a tightrope, Zander. You're still fragile."

 

"Fragile?" Zander couldn't believe she thought he was fragile. "Are you smoking something? I'm not fragile!"

 

"Emotionally...yes you are?" Janice raised a hand to ward off Zander's protestations. "Hear me out for a minute. You are one tough kid, Zander. Physically you have survived things that would have killed most people a dozen times over. And mentally you're surprisingly stable, most of the time. Even given your catatonic episode. But emotionally you feel everything. You feel too much. And most of the time you don't have an outlet for what you feel. Not one that you're comfortable with. Because taking pills, or punching walls or drinking yourself into a stupor does not count as an outlet. Those are just a means of self destructing. And that is something you're very good at."

 

Zander grimaced. "I'm good at pool too," he drawled. But Dr. Murphy was not amused by his snark. "What do you want me to do? Tell me. I'll do it."


Janice sighed. "That's the thing, Zander. I have told you. Talk about Emily. Talk about what you feel inside. If not to me then to your friends, or your father. Talk TO your father. That's a whole nother world of pain for you that you need to deal with."

 

"I'm not good at talking about what I feel." Zander had no choice but to be honest about it. "Ask me to do anything else but that."


"What are you afraid of, Zander?" Janice prompted.

 

Zander wanted to scream at her that he wasn't afraid of anything, but that would have been a hellacious lie. Right now he was afraid of everything. "You know what...I'm hungry. Is it okay if I go get something to eat?"

 

Janice nodded. "We'll talk later."

"Yeah...later." Zander walked out of the office, but he didn't go anywhere near the dining hall. Instead he headed for the gardens. He needed to be alone.

 

* * * * *

 

"Want some company?"


Zander looked up at Nikolas, who was hovering over him and snarled, "No!" He was in a foul mood and he wanted to be left alone.

 

Nikolas sat down next to Zander and studied the cover of the book that rested on Zander's lap. "Shakespeare?"

 

"I do know how to read," Zander shot back.

 

"Yeah…I know. I just didn't figure you for Shakespeare."


Zander closed the book with a snap then rose from the bench. "Go away." He started to walk back toward the facility but stopped when he heard Nikolas' footsteps behind him. "I told you, I don't want any company! I'm sorry that you drove all the way up here for nothing…but go away!"

 

Nikolas grinned. "Nice try, but I'm staying."


"I still hate you...you know that, right?"

 

"Right."


Zander sighed. "Why the fuck won't you leave me alone?"


Nikolas locked eyes with Zander. "Emily wouldn't want me to."


"Don't go there!" Zander had to resist the urge to swing a punch at Nikolas for pulling the *Emily* card.

 

"And the other reason is because it's fun to mess with you, Zander."

Zander almost laughed. "Now that I believe."


Nikolas smiled. "I'm here for myself, too."


"What does that mean?" Zander frowned.

 

"When I figure it out, I'll let you know." Nikolas strolled over to another bench and sat down. "A part of me feels like I need this to heal. I need to help you in order to help myself. Help myself what? That I don't know. But you know what I do know?"


Zander sat down with a sigh. "Enlighten me."

 

Nikolas grew serious. "I know I want to be your friend."


"Not in a million years." Zander snorted.

"Why not?" Nikolas posed the question like a challenge.


Zander gaped at him in disbelief. "Well…for one thing we hate each other."


Nikolas nodded. "Why do you hate me?"

 

"You want a list?"

"Yeah...I do."

 

Zander realized Nikolas was serious. He couldn't believe they were having this conversation. "Let me simplify. You hate me and I hate you. That's both the start and the end of the list."

 

Nikolas shook his head. "I don't hate you."


"Since when?"

"Since the day I accepted the fact that you made Emily happy."

Zander didn't want to have this conversation any more. "You should go."


Nikolas didn't budge. "I brought you something."


"Yeah? What?" If it was a change of subject, Zander was willing to go along. For now.

 

"It's back in your room." Nikolas turned to lead the way.


Zander followed.

 

* * * * *

 

Zander was almost hesitant to enter his room. Nikolas had told him to go inside and that he was going to tour the grounds or something. It made Zander nervous. But he pushed open the door and walked inside, and what he saw made him smile. "Hey, Gia!"

 

"Hey, Zander." She ran to him and gave him a hug.

 

Zander hugged her back wholeheartedly. "Nikolas sucks!"

 

Gia laughed. "He just likes to mess with you. And you let him."

 

"Yeah...I guess I do. I'm glad you came."

"You sound like you mean that."


Zander smiled. "I do. I've missed you."


Gia reached out and smoothed a lock of dark hair off his forehead. "I've missed you too. I hope you plan on coming back home soon."

 

"I hope so too." Zander didn't say anything more than that and he waited for Gia to give him the inevitable lecture on how he needed to try harder and do whatever it took to get over Emily. But the lecture never came.

 

"Guess what I brought," Gia countered, grabbing a paper bag off his bed.

 

Zander looked at the bag then squinted one eye, pretending as if he could see through it. Then he sighed. "I give up. What?"


Gia laughed then removed a package of Oreo cookies. Then she pulled out a DVD. *The Matrix*. "Remember the last time we watched this? We ate the whole bag of cookies."

 

"Yeah...and I don't think you ate anything else for the next three days." Zander said with a laugh. It was a good memory to have.

 

"Feel like a second viewing? I asked if I could bring you a DVD player and it's all hooked up."


Zander nodded. "Yeah...but let me go get some soda. We're going to need something to wash down the cookies. And I'll look for Nikolas and bring him back with me."


Gia smiled and hugged Zander again, then she took his hand. "I'll come with you."

 

"Thanks." Zander squeezed her fingers.

 

"For what?"


Zander shrugged. "For being you."

 

* * * * *

 

"Nice picture."


Zander turned to find Dr. Murphy standing in the doorway. She had been admiring the framed photograph of Lucky, Nikolas, Elizabeth and Gia that Elizabeth had given to Zander on her visit. In fact she had just left. The visit had gone better this time. Both of them had avoided talking about Emily. "Yeah...it's great. I can keep it, right?"

 

Janice nodded. "Sure. You have good friends, Zander."

 

"I guess. I mean...Elizabeth and Gia are my friends. Lucky and Nikolas? Not so much."

 

"Really? Huh. And here I would have thought Nikolas was a good friend. He's been up to see you three days in a row this past week."


Zander nodded. "Yeah...but he just likes to bug me."

 

Janice smiled. "I see. So...where are you going to put the picture?"

 

"On the nightstand." Zander had just decided that that would be a nice place. He could see it when he woke up and before he went to sleep. And for some reason that thought made him feel content. Or maybe it was the reason Elizabeth had given him for taking the picture. To give him a reminder that he wasn't alone. And suddenly that mattered to him in ways he wasn't ready to think about.

 

"Good place," Janice stated. "Oh...by the way, you have another visitor. Monica Quartermaine. She's in my office."


Zander frowned. "Why is she in your office?"

 

Janice shrugged. "Why don't you go and find out." With that she got up and left.


Cursing to himself, Zander headed out the door. He hated when Dr. Murphy started playing mind games with him. Striding down the hallway, he came to her office. The door was opened and Zander peeked inside. Sure enough, Dr. Quartermaine was there. Zander half considered turning around and leaving, but then he squared his shoulders and entered the room. Emily's mother deserved his respect. "Monica?"

 

"Zander…hello." She turned and smiled at him. "I hope it's okay to visit."


"It's fine."

Monica nodded. "I asked Dr. Murphy if we could talk in here. It's raining out so we can't go outside and I wanted a bit of privacy."


Zander was confused. "Is something wrong?"

 

"No…not really wrong. I just...I.." Monica sighed and moved to sit down on the couch. "Did you read the journal?"


"No." Zander's tone was sharp and he didn't apologize for it.


Monica sighed again. "I had a feeling you wouldn't. That's okay. You will when you're ready. But until then, would you answer a few questions for me."

 

Zander walked over to Dr. Murphy's desk and propped one hip against it. He was too wound up to sit down, but he felt too lock-kneed to pace. He knew he wasn't going to like the questions, but a part of him felt he owed Monica this. He could see the pain reflected in her eyes and it mirrored his own. "Go ahead, ask," Zander invited.

 

"Why did you grab Emily?"


"Because I was scared, and because I knew that she could help me."


Monica frowned. "How could she help you?"


Zander rubbed at his face. It was so hard to explain, even to himself. "I just knew. I looked into her eyes and I knew that I could trust her."

 

"She saved your life."


"She did more than that. She made me feel like my life was worth saving." Zander felt the sting of tears and he blinked them back. "Do you remember when Edward set me up by claiming I had mugged him?"

Monica nodded. "I remember."

 

Zander pushed away from the desk and joined her on the couch. "Emily didn't want me to have to go back to jail. She knew how much I hated it. So she broke up with me. She told me that she didn't care about me and that she believed her grandfather, and that I was just a thug." The memory flashed in Zander's head. He could hear her voice and see the tears in her eyes as she spoke those awful words to him. "I broke inside that day. Nothing my dad had ever done to me hurt as much as hearing Emily tell me I was a thug. Worthless. I had felt that way my entire life until Emily, and for her to believe that about me meant that it was true in a way it had never been before. And I didn't want to be that again, but if she said it...it had to be true." A tear slid down his face and Zander brushed it away with the back of one hand. "When she finally told me that she had lied to protect me, I was relieved and angry. But we forgave each other, because that's what Emily is good at. Was...good at. Forgiving people for their sins. For their flaws. For making mistakes."

 

"You can't forgive her for dying."

"I can't forgive myself for not saving her." Zander watched Monica reach out to him and he pulled away and stood up. "Emily believed in me…she believed in us. No one has ever believed in me the way she did. I grew up knowing that I was a worthless mistake. And whenever I was stupid enough to forget that, my father was more than happy to remind me." Another tear fell and Zander swiped at it angrily.

 

Monica rose to her feet and put a hand on Zander's shoulder. "Your father loves you, Zander. I know he does. He made alot of mistakes…he's human, but he loves you. He asks me about you all the time. So I tell him what I know. What Emily told me about you. And it's very sad that I know you better than he does."


Zander shook his head. "You don't know me at all."

 

"I do. Because Emily told me all about you in her journal. We can help each other, Zander." It was a desperate plea.


"I can't help anyone," Zander whispered. "I'm sorry." He pulled away and ran out of the room.

 

* * * * *

 

"So…how are things going with my son?" Cameron asked as he offered Dr. Murphy a cup of coffee. They were in his office at General Hospital, keeping the tone between them professional.

 

"Things could be better," Janice allowed. "Zander is reluctant to reconnect with the world, emotionally. He's afraid of being hurt again, and he's afraid of disappointing the people he cares about."


Cameron sighed as he sat down behind his desk. "We're the ones who have disappointed him. Not that I should count myself among those who Alexander cares about."

 

Janice smiled. "Don't go there, Dr. Lewis. Your son does love you, more than he wants to acknowledge. He has spent his entire life looking for the approval he wanted from you but knew he could never get. For the paternal approval and love."


"I've failed him in every way."


"Pretty much," Janice allowed. "But you have a second chance to make things right."


Cameron shook his head. "We both know I can't go back and change the past, so there is no way to make things right for Alexander."

 

Janice locked eyes with Dr. Lewis. "So...what then? You just give up?"

"No...I won't give up on my son. Not this time."


"Good, I'm glad to hear that. You two are alot alike, in many ways."

 

Cameron was surprised to hear that. "Name one."

 

Janice set her coffee cup down on the desk. "Neither one of you knows how to let go of the past." Rising to her feet, Janice nodded to Dr. Lewis, then she walked out of the office.

 

"The past is all I have," Cameron whispered, when she was gone.

 

* * * * *

 

It was almost dawn. Zander stood by the window, holding Emily's journal. He had read the first three pages and his face was wet with tears. "Emily..." he whispered, brokenly. Zander wanted to be with her. He needed to feel the connection between them. He needed to feel her. It hurt to remember her, yet he needed to cling to those memories. But they weren't enough. The journal slipped from his hands as Zander turned from the window and began to pace. He ran his fingers through his hair and when he dropped his hand he hit the bedside table and the picture from Elizabeth toppled over and hit the floor. Zander watched it shatter. He fell to his knees and grabbed the frame, shaking off the shards of broken glass. But they seemed symbolic somehow. Everything about his life was shattered. He felt broken inside. He looked at the picture and it seemed wrong. Those four people smiling back at him weren't his friends. They were Emily's friends. She belonged in that picture. Yet she belonged with him more, and Zander knew that he belonged with her. It was the only time his life made any sense. Tears began to slide down his face as Zander let the picture drop. Glass was scattered all about and he reached out with a shaky hand to clean it up. Then his fingers closed over the biggest shard and Zander could barely see through his tears, but he could feel the way the sharp edge cut through his skin as he pulled it over his left wrist. "I love you, Em...I love you so much. I love you so much..." Zander felt the warm flow of blood and he felt suddenly at peace. As if Emily had heard him and she was waiting for him. Zander wiped away the tears on his face, then watched his blood drip down his hand until darkness claimed him.


 
Chapter 23