“Hey,” Tommy said as he neared the boxcar. He could see that Lucky was busy tuning his guitar and he wondered if he should go back. When Lucky looked up and smiled at him, he changed his mind.
“Hey, man, what’s up?” Lucky asked. He took a closer look at Tommy and added, “What’s wrong with you?”
Tommy swung himself into the boxcar to sit next to Lucky. He sighed, “I need some money.”
Lucky chuckled, “Don’t we all.”
“Nah, I mean, I REALLY need some money.”
“Why?” Lucky asked, setting his guitar down so that he could concentrate on Tommy’s words.
“Because of my mom’s medical bills and I’ve got to get a place for us to stay,” Tommy said, flexing his hand nervously.
“I thought you were staying with Mrs. Hardy.”
“Me, too, but Mama doesn’t want to,” Tommy sighed.
“Why not?” Lucky asked with a slight frown.
“Too crowded or something. I don’t know.”
“I wish I could help you out, but I don’t have nearly enough to cover what you need,” Lucky said sympathetically.
“I know. Besides, I didn’t come out here to ask you for money,” Tommy said.
“Well, that’s good cause I don’t have any,” Lucky chuckled.
Tommy laughed at Lucky’s comment and shook his head. Lucky’s sense of humor was a bit out there sometimes, but every once and a while, he’d say something that amused Tommy. The more time Tommy spent with Lucky and with Nikolas, the more he believed that if they gave each other a chance, they’d find that they would get along. Whenever Tommy saw them fight, he wished he had a brother. Elizabeth was a great cousin, but it wasn’t the same as having a sibling. Lucky and Nikolas could have a special relationship if they’d only allow themselves to.
“So, what are you gonna do?” Lucky asked, rising to go to his Igloo cooler. He pulled out two root beers and went back to sit next to Tommy. He gave Tommy one and then, he opened his.
“I’ve been thinking about asking Jason for a job. I went by his place earlier, but he wasn’t there, so I decided to hang out with you for a while and then, head back over,” Tommy said, as he opened his can. He concentrated as he took his first swallow of the beverage. He didn’t allow himself to drink carbonated drinks often because after all of the years of being without, his body wasn’t used to it and retaliated in the worse way. But when he did drink some, the first swig was always the best.
“Are you sure you wanna do that?” Lucky asked, watching Tommy closely.
“Yeah, why not?”
“Well, you do realize what he does for a living, right? He doesn’t just wake up and go to the office, ya know?” Lucky said, his voice full of warning.
“I know. He’s in the mob,” Tommy said quietly, turning his attention back to his root beer. He thought Lucky would be supportive. Had he known differently, he never would have told him of his plan.
“Yeah, he’s in the mob, but do you know what that really means?” Lucky asked.
“Yeah, I know! I’m not stupid.”
“I never said you were. I don’t think you are either, but if you go working for Jason, you may prove me wrong.”
“Look, I’m sorry I bothered you. I’ll just go now. Thanks for the root beer,” Tommy said as he hopped down from the boxcar.
“Wait, man,” Lucky said as he hopped down, too. “I know you need the money and I know that when we’re desperate…well, people do stupid things when they’re desperate.”
“Lucky, I have to do something. My mother needs me. I can’t let her down.”
“And how do you think she’d feel if she knew you were working for a gangster?” Lucky asked.
“She doesn’t have to know,” Tommy replied.
“She’ll find out. Eventually, they always find out,” Lucky said. “Listen man, I can’t tell you what to do, but I will tell you this. A while back you told me that when you were held captive the thought of leaving your mother never crossed your mind. You said that if you killed yourself you’d be worse than the guards who held you guys. What do you think you’ll be if you got caught in the crossfire?”
“Not telling me what to do, huh?” Tommy laughed ruefully. ‘’Lucky, I’ve thought about that, but I don’t plan to ask Jason for a bodyguard position. I just want something that’ll give me enough cash to take care of my mom. I’d never put myself in a position where I could get killed. Taking care of my mom is the most important thing to me and I don’t plan on letting her down.”
“I hear ya, but I hope you hear me. If you get a job in the mob, you’re asking for trouble. The money is good, but it ain’t easy. It’s dirty and it usually leaves a trail. And I don’t want it leaving a trail back to Elizabeth or anyone else in your family,” Lucky said.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tommy said. He finished the rest of his root beer and threw it into Lucky’s recycling bin. “See ya, later.”
Lucky watched as his friend walked away. He hoped his warning would be heeded. Tommy had come too far to willingly throw his life away now. Maybe if Lucky thought about it, he could come up with something that could help Tommy and his mother.
Simone smiled as her former mother-in-law and a young teenaged girl entered her hospital room. Gina had left to go see if she could find Tommy and Simone had spent most the afternoon alone. She was relieved to see that she wouldn’t be alone anymore.
“Hello, dear,” Audrey said, as she moved to give Simone a hug. Even though she was still very frail, Simone returned the hug with as much gusto as she could manage. Audrey gave her a pat on her back and then released her. She continued to hold her hand as she sat on the guest chair that was beside the bed.
With glistening eyes, they stared at each other for several moments as they thought of the past. So many years had passed between them and so many changes had taken place. Audrey felt guilty for how she blamed Simone for Tommy’s appearance when he first arrived back in her life. She also felt guilty for not recognizing their disappearance in the first place. How could she have been so wrapped in her own life that she didn’t recognize that her own grandchild was missing, she wondered. She could only hope that Simone and Tommy would find it in their hearts to forgive her. She also hoped that maybe one day she would be able to forgive herself.
“You look great, Audrey,” Simone said with a smile.
“So do you,” Audrey sniffled.
Simone laughed. “There is no need to lie.”
“I’m not. You were in bad shape there for a while, but you have made a huge improvement,” Audrey said, squeezing Simone’s hand.
As the two women continued to beam at each other, Lizzie cleared her throat. The two women jumped and looked at her with apologetic eyes. Audrey held out her hand to her. “I’m sorry, dear,” Audrey said. Turning her attention back to Simone, she said, “Simone, this is my grand-daughter, Elizabeth. She’s Jeff’s daughter.”
“Oh my goodness, look how you’ve grown!” Simone said with a smile. “The last time I saw a picture of you, you were a newborn. So, you’re the Lizzie my Tommy speaks so highly of.”
“Hi,” Lizzie said with a small wave. She had heard about and worried over Simone for months, but now as she actually spoke to her, she found herself in awe. This woman had raised a son and survived through the worse kind of hell imaginable. How should she approach someone like her, Lizzie wondered.
“You can come closer. I don’t bite,” Simone said, extending her hand out to Lizzie.
Lizzie moved closer to her. As she stood on the opposite side of the bed, she took Simone’s hand as she took a seat in the guest chair. “Tommy has told me so much about you,” she said quietly.
“He’s told me about you, too. I’m glad that we’re finally meeting.” Simone’s voice began to break as she added, “I want to thank you both for being there for him and for helping him when I couldn’t.”
“Oh, Simone…” Audrey began, but couldn’t find the words to continue.
“Aunt Simone, you don’t have to thank us. You and Tommy are family. He is one of the sweetest and most caring guys I know. I’m proud to be his cousin and your niece,” Lizzie said as she gently squeezed Simone’s hand.
Simone smiled at Lizzie and Audrey through her tears. Family. She had a few concerns about rebuilding a life in Port Charles, but now that she realized that she was among family, she found that her concerns began to disappear.