[Disclaimer: Mary Mae is alive. AJ crashed into the tree. Jason was comatose for six weeks. When he awakened, his memory was still intact…including who and what caused the accident.]
The Day After Thanksgiving, 1998
A blanket of snow covered the Quartermaine grounds. Keesha glanced at the white field and sucked in air. She should have been calmed by the serene view. The snowfall came unexpectedly and most of Port Charles' citizens were aglow with the joyous season. Normally, she shared their enthusiasm. But not this year. Happiness wouldn't come.
"Baby, my offer still stands." Mary Mae looped her arm through Keesha's and they edged up the brick walkway toward the mansion's front entrance.
"I know, Granny Mae." Keesha patted her grandmother's hand. "There's nothing you can do to help me with this. I'll figure it out."
"If you want to talk…"
Keesha gave Mary Mae a heartfelt smile. "I know."
The front door opened without them needing to ring the bell. Reginald stood at the door, hurriedly waving them inside. Anxiety radiated from him. Blotches of red dotted his cheeks. He looked ready to burst.
"Keesha!" The butler grabbed her wrist and pulled her inside. "Thank God you're here." He gave Mary Mae a glance. "Hello, Mrs. Ward."
Keesha's grandmother bit back a chuckle. "Hello, Reginald."
Raised voices sounded from the living room. Keesha's chest tightened. She didn't have to see the faces to know who were speaking.
"They've been at it every since the tree was brought in."
"Where's the rest of the family?" Keesha asked. She looked toward the curved staircase, hoping and praying to see Monica or Alan. Hell, even Edward would be a welcomed face. The thought of playing referee once again overloaded her with dread.
"Board meeting for the adults and a party for the resident teenager."
Mary Mae's eyebrows lifted. "So, they left us to trim the tree?"
"Emily should be here any minute. The others called to say the meeting was going over schedule, but for the decorating to start without them. Hence…" He waved toward the living room. "Cook is threatening to walk, and I may not be far behind her if something isn't done about them."
With that said, he turned on his heel and stormed down the corridor.
"Well!" Mary Mae said. "Talk about a drama queen."
"Granny Mae, I told you about that," Keesha warned even though the comment tickled her funny bone. Then, she heard another shout. Humor flowed out and apprehension flowed in. She squeezed her grandmother's hand. "Wait for me in the den. This won't take long. I promise."
"Really, it's better if I go in alone. The performances become more dramatic with an audience."
"Okay." Mary Mae gave her a smile of encouragement.
Keesha took a deep breath and quickly moved to the living room before she changed her mind.
What she found didn't come as a surprise. Broken ornaments lay shattered at the base of the ten-foot Christmas tree. Two brothers regarded each other with angry, red faces. A strong vibe crackled in the air. Keesha balled her hands into fists at her sides. Her fingernails dug into her fleshy palms. She so hated to deal with this crap. Forgiveness was a word neither seemed to know the definition of.
Well, she'd had it.
The yelling halted abruptly. Two pairs of blue eyes honed in on her. Animosity faded and the sapphire orbs warmed with happiness to see her and with love.
Yes, they both loved her. Both were in love with her and neither gave a damn if the other one knew. Oftentimes, she felt like a rag doll being ripped in two. A prize in their game and no longer a person, a woman, who mattered.
Jason turned away from the undecorated tree. Leaving heavily on a cane he didn't really need, he moved to her. He cupped her face and slowly leaned forward to kiss her. She noticed the triumphant gleam in his eyes just before he kissed her. There was also love, but it wasn't enough.
Keesha stepped out of his embrace. For a split second, her gaze connected with AJ. The wide grin on his face upon her rejection of Jason only darkened her mood further.
"This is too much," she said, her voice harsh with emotion. "I don't want to do this anymore. I won't."
"Keesha, sweetheart," Jason said, placing his hand at the small of her back, "what's wrong? Let's go upstairs and talk privately."
"Sex can't cure this."
AJ snickered. "She's seeing the light, little brother."
"Shut up, AJ."
She held up her hand. "Both of you, please shut up. Don't you two ever get tired? Don't you miss being brothers? I'm not the winning prize in your pissing contest and no one wants to deal with anymore of your crap. Reginald is this close to quitting and I don't blame him!
"The rest of the family come up with excuses to stay away because of the bickering and that's saying a lot for your family. Together you turned Thanksgiving into a horror show. I was deeply ashamed…of myself for ever loving either of you."
"I'm sorry," Jason said, cradling his cell phone against his ear. He looked upstairs to the second story window of the Ward House. A lamp glowed and a womanly shape of a shadow passed by the curtain. The room was Keesha's and the shadowy figure definitely belonged to her.
"Sweetheart, I know you're home. If you don't want to let me in, at least pick up the phone. Talk to me."
Jason's hand squeezed around the wooden handle of the cane. He leaned back against the street lamp. His heart skipped a beat as Keesha's shadow passed the window again. Ever since she stormed from the Q mansion on the day after Thanksgiving, Jason hadn't been able to breathe. Their relationship had weathered many storms, but lately the tide took a dangerous turn. He felt as if she was slipping away and that was the absolute last thing he wanted. Then, the lamp faded to darkness, as did his hopes for reconciliation.
AJ's pace quickened as he noticed the familiar two-door sedan parked at the curb. He couldn't remember the last time he and Keesha were on Charles Street at the Foundation at the same time. Definitely before the blowout at Thanksgiving and now that Christmas was one day away… Well, he hadn't seen her in nearly thirty days, which were the longest days of his life.
Excitement bubbled inside the two-story brownstone that housed CSF. A sense of purpose coursed through AJ every time he stepped inside the building. Here, he was no longer the ill-favored son of the Quartermaines. The one destined to fail. Here, there were no comparisons to Jason. AJ's hard work and dedication were all the Charles Street citizens cared about.
AJ moved through the crowd, accepting and giving well wishes for a good Christmas. His gaze sought Keesha. A flash of red and green swam before his eyes. His chest tightened. Even dressed like one of Santa's helpers, Keesha still presented a vision of beauty. Maybe her absence the last few weeks hadn't been intentional. Maybe coincidence and a guilty conscience made him believe what wasn't true.
"Keesha," he murmured as he reached her, "Merry Christmas."
He reached out to brush a curl from her cheek. She flinched from his touch. AJ frowned. "What is it?"
His mouth dropped open in amazement. "You can't still be mad."
She shrugged. "I'm not. Can I speak with you in your office?"
"You don't have to ask."
She nodded once and proceeded him toward the back. Once they were behind closed doors, AJ opened his mouth to apologize. Keesha turned away. She retrieved an envelope from his desk and thrust it at him.
"What's this?" AJ carefully held the envelope. He dreaded opening it. He didn't want to know what it held inside.
"It's my resignation--"
He moved again to touch her. Again, she sidestepped him. "No, it's official. I sent a copy to the board of directors. I will finish out the year, but as of January I will no longer be employed here."
"Why? The Foundation needs you. How can you turn your back--"
"Stop it, AJ. Don't try to guilt trip me," she said, her voice firm and determined. "I know what I'm doing."
"This is about Jason and me," he said, watching her. "It's not like you to hold a grudge."
"Granny Mae has volunteered to help out until you find someone."
She quickly left before he could say another word, but the truth was, AJ didn't know what to say. He never thought the best thing that ever happened to him would so easily walk out of his life.
"I guess you're happy now."
Jason flipped the lid closed on the palm-size jewelry box and shoved it inside his pocket. He didn't bother to turn away from the French doors. He simply said, "Leave me alone, AJ."
He should have known that wouldn't stop his brother.
"Nope, you finally have what you've wanted," AJ continued, as he noisily sat on the sofa. "Keesha turned in her resignation today."
"What are you talking about?" Jason moved to face his brother. "She would never leave the Foundation."
"Well, she did," AJ replied. "She quit."
"You must have done something!" Jason grabbed AJ's collar and pulled his brother to his feet.
"I did nothing!" AJ wrenched free. "Whether you want to believe it or not, I respect her! People at the Foundation depend on her. I depend on her. I don't know what will happen without her. I thought you knew."
"Me?" Jason snorted. He shook his head. "She didn't tell me about it." He slumped onto the arm of the sofa. "She doesn't tell me much of anything anymore. I guess you're happy now."
The elevator opened onto the children's ward. Keesha followed her grandmother as the older woman headed toward the floor's lobby. Spending a few hours at General Hospital on Christmas had become a tradition for the small clan of Wards. Justus would meet them there and later, they all had dinner with the Quartermaines. This year, Keesha planned to forgo the last part. She couldn't imagine sitting across either Jason or AJ playing the hypocrite on the Lord's birthday. It went against her nature.
Mary Mae squeezed Keesha's hand. "You can't mope forever. Eventually, you have to face them. You owe them that much."
Keesha pulled her hand free. "I don't owe either of them anything."
"What about Jason? He's in love with you. He deserves the truth."
Keesha remained quiet. There was no response to her grandmother's wisdom.
Mary Mae patted Keesha's hand. A few feet away, Ned struck the keys on the piano.
"That's my cue," Mary Mae said. "Think about what I said, baby."
"Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With ev'ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me."
The Christmas carol touched everyone who truly listened to its words, but there were none more affected than two brothers. It was never clear who made the first move, just that it was long overdue.
"I'm sorry," the Quartermaine siblings said to each other.
"We've wasted a lot of time," Jason said.
"Too much," AJ agreed. "It won't be easy."
"But we can try."
"We can try."
Keesha witnessed the reunion from across the room. Tears blurred her vision, yet, she knew her eyes had not deceived her. Jason and AJ had opted for peace. She breathed a sigh of relief. This made what she planned to say to them… Nothing would make it easier, but at least she knew she wouldn’t have to worry about them.
As Alan, dressed as Santa Claus, began to read the Christmas story, Keesha caught the attention of both men and beckoned them to her. Both wore surprised expressions and she knew the shock was deserved. She hadn't gone out of her way to speak with either brother for quite some time.
"Merry Christmas, Keesha." Jason immediately pulled her into his arms. His mouth, warm and moist, brushed her cheek. He pressed his hand to the small of her back. Possession bore a steely glint in his sapphire blue eyes.
AJ ignored it. He pulled her into a hug. He kissed her other cheek and refused to release her hand.
"I have something to tell you," she said evenly looking each male square in the eye. "It won't be easy, but I think you'll understand."
"We can try," Jason said. His hand stroked her back. "Talk to us."
"I'm leaving Port Charles for the Peace Corps."
AJ laughed nervously. "You've already quit. You don't have to leave."
"Yes, I do."
"If it's the fighting," Jason said, turning her to face him, "we've agreed to stop."
"That's good. You need to be brothers again."
"So, you'll stay."
"No, Jason." She shook her head. "I'm the rope that you pull and right now, I'm fraying at both ends. It's not healthy for any of us, but especially not for me. I'm confused. Leaving will help."
"What are you confused about?" AJ asked. "Maybe we can help. Don't leave without giving us the chance to try."
"It won't work," she said, becoming choked on emotion. "You can't figure this out for me. It's something I must do for myself."
"What is?" Jason asked.
"Being in love with both of you. You two have discovered the possibility of peace. If I stay… I love you both too much to stay."
Christmas Stories 2002 | Home