"Will you be home for Thanksgiving?"
Dawn Jensen rolled her eyes at the accusing tone of her sister's voice as it carried to her through the telephone. With a fake smile plastered on her face and registering in her voice, she said through gritted teeth, "I said I would, didn't I?"
"There's no need to get nasty," Dara quickly informed her. "It's just that Mama is looking forward to having the whole family together. If it's not gonna happen, I'd like to tell her now so that she doesn't get her hopes up."
"Come on, Dara," Dawn said, trying to keep the irritation from coloring her voice. "I said that I would be there."
"So, what are you working on anyway?"
"It's not something that I can talk about," Dawn replied. "You know how it goes. Listen, I'd better go now. I'll see you next week. Give everyone my love."
"Including me?" Dara joked.
"Yeah," Dawn said with a smile, "even you."
As soon as the dial tone sounded in her ear, Dawn closed her cellphone and shoved it inside her purse. A few yards away from the truckstop, she sat in her parked car. She watched as the object of her fascination appeared from the truckstop's backdoor with two hefty bags of trash in his hand. A white T-shirt stretched taut across his chest and biceps as he gracefully moved across the gravel to the dumpsters in the back. Despite the brisk chill in the air, beads of perspiration glistened his brow. She swallowed hard as she watched him. Even from the distance that separated them, he intoxicated her.
"Now or never," she murmured softly to herself as he began to move back towards the truckstop. She pulled her purse onto her shoulder and pushed her sunglasses up. She opened her car door and stepped outside. The loud slam of the door drew his eyes to hers. He stood still as she came towards him, piercing her with his steely blue-eyed gaze.
"You don't listen, do you?" he asked her as she came closer to him.
"I will listen when you say something I want to hear," Dawn told him. Outwardly, she exuded confidence while inside she trembled at their proximity. She folded her arms in an effort to still the rapid pounding of her heart. "Will you?"
He grinned at her. He pointed his finger at her as he brushed past her. "Your tenacity will get you somewhere, but it won't get you anywhere with me. "
"Don't be so sure about that," she said softly just as his hand reached for the screen door. "So far, my tenacity has always gotten me what I want."
He turned in the doorway to look at her. A tiny smile played about the corner of his lips. His steely gaze became warm and inquisitive. "Should I take that as a threat?" he asked in a low voice.
"No," she replied in a husky voice, which surprised her. "It's just a warning." She shrugged as she brushed past him and went inside the kitchen of the truckstop.
Lucky Spencer put his hand over his heart and murmured, "I consider myself warned then."
A fresh shower and clean clothes did wonders for Ellen's peace of mind. She stared at her reflection in the mirror. Dimples appeared in the corners of her face as she smiled, dimly recognizing the face of the woman she used to be. Slowly, she raised a trembling hand to her face. She outlined her full, upturned lips. A smile. She wasn't sure if she'd ever do that again. She wasn't sure if she'd ever want to.
Ellen backed away from the mirror and made her way towards the bed that Mattie had offered her. She slid between the clean, cool sheets, reveling in the feel of cotton against her skin. Her head hit the pillow and she fell asleep instantly.
Haunting dreams of her past year swept into her unconsciousness. Shaking her head, she fought the images until the demons evaporated and images of a happier time came into view. Light, laughter and love caused her to smile in her sleep as Matt reached for her in her dreams. He told her he loved her as he pulled her back into bed with him. He gently held her close to his heart as he told that all was forgotten and that their love would always prevail. Tears slid from the corners of her eyes as he proposed to her and she accepted. Hugging the pillow tightly in her arms, Ellen slept peacefully for the first time in a year her dreams took her out of reality for a short time.
"You know if you keep hanging around here, I'm gonna have to either put you to work or start charging you," Mattie commented with a teasing smile as she refilled Dawn's mug with hot chocolate.
"Oh, didn't you know?" Lucky asked, wiping down the counter as his gaze held Dawn's. "She is working. She's working me."
Dawn's jaw tightened, but she held her tongue. She blew on the steaming beverage before she took a tentative sip.
"Working you, huh?" Mattie asked. She placed a hand on her hip as her eyes flew to Dawn's. "Working him how?"
"She wants my story," he replied before Dawn could speak.
"A reporter?" Mattie asked, suspiciously. Her gray eyes darkened as she stared at the younger woman.
Dawn lowered the porcelain mug to the counter and sat up straight on the stool. "I'm a writer. There's a difference."
"No difference," Lucky muttered, turning away from her to move behind the grill. "There's no difference at all."
"Oh, yes, there is!" Dawn said, looking from Mattie's skeptical eyes to Lucky's angry ones. "I don't want your story to just sell to some newspaper. I'm writing a book! A book that would-"
"He don't want no books written about him. He doesn't even want anyone to know that he's alive," Mattie said. Her voice was hard as she defended the younger man.
"But why?" Dawn asked, quietly. Her light brown eyes bored into Lucky as she silently pleaded with him to answer her. "Why wouldn't you want everyone to know? So people are mourning you. Doesn't that bother you just a little, tiny bit? Your mother...your father...Elizabeth?"
Lucky threw down the spatula that he had just grabbed and stormed from behind the grill. Heaving with anger, he said through clenched teeth, "My mother remarried and she and my baby sister are living in Greece. My father broke up a marriage and took his conquest back to Arizona. And Elizabeth... Well, she's happily married now. So, no, I don't think that anyone is mourning me. Not one little, tiny bit!"
"And, what about your brother Nikolas?" she asked, unable to back down. "He's not the same. He's missed you-"
"He never even knew me!" Lucky ground out. "Besides, what do you know about it? When I...left, you and he hated the sight of each other. Did that much change in a year?"
"I know what it's like to lose someone," she said in a hoarse, tight voice. "We reached an understanding. We became friends."
"Friends?" he asked with a sneer.
She stiffened upon the tone of his voice. "Yes, friends!"
"So, as his" he paused for emphasis, "' friend', did you write his story, too?"
Unable to stop herself, Dawn slapped his face before she could think twice and change her mind. She grabbed her purse and moved to storm out of the diner. He grabbed her upper arm before she could make it to the door. As the scene began to change between the two, Mattie quietly made her exit, slipping off to the adjoining room to check on her guest.
"You're touching me," Dawn said, keeping her eyes on the hand that still gripped her.
He quickly released her as if he'd been scorched. He took a step back away from her. "L-look," he stammered, trying to find the words, "I'm sorry about what I said just then. You caught me. You busted me right here in Mattie's place not even a hundred miles from Port Charles. You found me and you want the reward of writing my story, but Dawn, why can't you see that I'm not ready, yet?"
"Lucky, you'll never be ready if you don't try to be." She swallowed hard as he released a loud sigh. "I am hearing you. Honest, I am. I even understand where you're coming from, but you've been through so much-"
"You don't know what I've been through," he muttered.
"No," she quickly admitted, "I don't. I shouldn't have said that. What I meant is that I can see that you've been through so much. It's in your eyes...the way you look at things..."
"And, what would your book do?" he asked her. "It won't take away the past year. Nothing will ever do that."
"Okay," she said. She opened her mouth to speak again, but the shrill ringing of her cellular stopped her from saying more. She reached inside her purse and turned away as she answered her call.
Lucky released the breath he had been holding and headed back towards the grill.
"Where am I?" Ellen asked. Her eyes fluttered open. They widened in surprise as she saw someone standing over her. She sat up in bed and clutched the sheet to her chest.
"Hey, now," Mattie said with a comforting smile, "you're here in my diner. You're okay."
"Oh," Ellen murmured, embarrassed. "Sorry about that. I just forgot."
"Don't worry about it." Mattie sat down in the wooden chair that was beside the bed. "I see that the clothes fit. How about the bed? Did you get a good nap?"
Ellen nodded. "Yeah, it was nice. I can't thank you enough for your kindness. You and Roy...most would have turned me away, looking the way I was. You two probably shouldn't be so trusting. You have to be careful in days like these," Ellen advised as she rose from the bed. She took the pair of tennis shoes that Mattie offered and sat down on the bed again to put them on.
"Is that what happened to you?" Mattie asked, gently, watching as Ellen fumbled with the shoelaces. After a few attempts, she was able to tie the laces together. Mattie frowned slightly, but refrained from voicing her questions.
"No, I didn't trust enough," Ellen replied with a self-deprecating laugh. "You live and you learn."
"Well, ain't that the truth!" Mattie said, slapping her thighs as she rose from the wooden chair. She stretched her back. "I've learned that one the hard way." She smiled as Ellen looked up at her. "There's more soup if you'd like it. My assistant cooks up one mean bowl of chili if you're up for something that's heartier. Interested?"
"Sounds good to me."
Ellen followed Mattie out of the room. As they moved down the hallway and neared the dining area, agitated voices could be heard. Mattie rushed to see what the matter was. "What's going on now?" she asked as she rounded the corner.
"Dara, slow down!" Dawn cried into her phone. "I can't understand you. What's wrong with Mama?"
Ellen, who had been a classmate of Dara's while in high school, moved past Mattie to go to Dawn's side. She pried the phone from Dawn's hands and began to speak to her former friend in hushed tones. She nodded and spoke softly as she gleaned information. Her hand rested on Dawn's shoulder as the younger woman shook with silent tears. In the back of Ellen's mind, she noticed that the young man moved closer to Dawn, holding out his hand as if he wanted to comfort her, too, but was afraid to.
When she had learned as much she could, she ended the call and handed the phone back to Dawn. As Dawn opened her mouth with questions, Ellen spoke first. "I'm sorry, Dawn, but your mother forgot to take her insulin and she slipped into a diabetic coma."
"Wh-what?" Dawn asked, tears gathering in the corner of her eyes. "Ellen, my mother never forgets!" She wiped her eyes and looked around for her purse, which she had misplaced during the course of the telephone call.
"What are you doing?" Lucky asked her.
"I'm looking for my purse!" she said, frantically wiping the tears from her eyes. "My k-keys are in there. I have to go back to Port Charles. I h-have to get out of here."
"You can't drive like this," he advised her, grabbing her purse, just as she did.
"He's right!" Ellen agreed.
"Okay," Dawn said through sniffles, "You drive."
"I-I can't," Ellen stammered. "I d-don't drive anymore, but I can go with you."
"Okay, let's go." Dawn tugged on her purse. "Lucky!"
"You're in no condition for driving. I'll drive you both there."
The trio headed to the door and paused as Mattie called out. "Which hospital is it? I want to call to make sure you get there safely."
"General Hospital," Dawn answered. "We're going to General Hospital."
Ellen's heartbeat quickened. General Hospital was her old home away from home. General Hospital was where Matt worked. Excitement coursed through as his image flashed before her eyes. Silently, she spoke to him, "Matt, I'm coming. I'm coming back, Matt."