Emily carried her packages through the mall. As she passed LearningSmith, she cursed and stopped short. She quickly turned around and entered the store, followed closely by Renaldo. The two had barely spoken since that night in the kitchen two weeks ago. As if by mutual agreement, Emily and Renaldo avoided time alone together and both seemed uncomfortable that circumstances had thrown them together for the afternoon.
Carl, one of Jason’s other men, had accompanied her on all of her outings over the last two weeks and she fully expected him to be with her today. The fact that Renaldo had come instead had turned what was supposed to be a relaxing afternoon into an uncomfortable situation for all concerned. Emily sighed as she remembered seeing Renaldo for the first time that morning. She had just come down the stairs from her room and was shocked to see Renaldo waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. For a brief instant, she let herself think that things would go back to the way they used to be for them, a relaxed camaraderie that made spending time together enjoyable. She refused to acknowledge the erratic beating of her heart in her chest at the sight of him.
“Where is Carl?” She kicked herself immediately for sounding so curt, but that was all she could bring herself to say. Renaldo felt the knot in his stomach double in size. It was all he could do not to pull her into his arms and apologize for his attitude towards her. He couldn’t though. He had to think of Jason and his duty to him. He thought back to that night in the kitchen and remembered the hurt in Emily’s eyes when he intentionally blew her off. Since that evening, he had wanted to talk to her, but again, his loyalty to Jason kept him from doing so. He opted for the short answer. “He had personal business to attend to, I will be accompanying you today.”
Emily’s first reaction to the news was pure joy, but it was quickly replaced with dread. She and Renaldo had very little to say to each other anymore, and she knew that an afternoon alone together would put an even greater strain on a relationship that was already headed down the tubes.
A little boy begging his mother for a small plastic box with a magnifying glass in the lid used for viewing insects brought Emily back to reality. She had to bite back a laugh at the mother’s response. “No Billy, you seem to do just fine burning up the poor ants with your hand held magnifying glass.” Emily remembered the days when she and Lucky would do just that, the goal had been to fry two ants at a time instead of just one. “But Mommmmm.” Billy whined, “Timmy has one and he can burn up twelve ants in one shot. It’s so cool. Please.” Though she sympathized with Billy’s plight, Emily made her way to astronomy section in search of a glow in the dark Solar System set for Michael’s ceiling. He was fascinated with constellations, and she knew he would love to place the stickers on his ceiling. She found what she was looking for and chose the deluxe set that also included the moon and some planets. Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Renaldo looking at the magnetic poetry sets for the refrigerator. She smiled as a mental picture of Renaldo standing at his fridge composing impromptu sonnets entered her mind. Abruptly she turned away, and moved to pay for the set she picked out for Michael. When she was finished, she left the store, a plan forming in her mind.
She told herself that she thought Renaldo had been behind her, but she knew when she left that he was still in the store and he hadn’t seen her leave. She quickly headed down the mall like a small child who had escaped her parent’s watchful eye for a day. She turned into the food court, sat at a table in the corner, and waited for the inevitable.
Renaldo pocketed his purchase and moved to the bench across from LearningSmith. He turned and realized for the first time that Emily was no where in sight. How had he let this happen? He had originally followed Emily into the store, then he broke the cardinal rule of surveillance, and he took his eyes off of his quarry. Now he would have to explain to Jason how he got his sister kidnapped, or worse murdered. The lump in Renaldo’s throat grew exponentially as he thought of all the horrible things that could be happening to Emily. Quickly, he surveyed the area and decided on a direction to take. He would do a quick check of the mall interior before he reported to Jason.
Emily smiled, sipped her lemonade and watched a frantic Renaldo pass her by. He deserved it, she thought as she said, “hey, handsome, did you lose something?”
Renaldo stopped short. Relief flooded into his body quickly followed by anger. It was all he could do not to wring Emily Quartermaine’s neck. “What the hell are you doing here? How could you take a risk like this? When Jason finds out, there will be hell to pay all around.”
Emily couldn’t help herself, and she burst out laughing. “Renaldo, relax. It was just a joke. You are always so serious. I had to take the opportunity, it was just too easy.” Emily looked into his eyes and realized just how much she had missed her conversations with him. “Besides, I thought we could use the experience as sort of an ice breaker. I have another straw here if you want to join me.”
Renaldo sighed and moved to sit across from her. “Regardless, you shouldn’t have done that. I thought you had been kidnapped, thousands of horrible images flashed through my mind.”
Emily was immediately sorry for the worry she had caused, but at the same time she was flattered by the expression on Renaldo’s face when he found her. So, she thought, he missed me too. “I’m sorry. I missed you Renaldo, and I wanted us to be able to get our friendship back before I left. Please don’t be mad, this was the only way I could think of.” Tears welled up in Emily’s eyes as she asked, “What happened? One day we’re friends, the next we can’t even talk to each other. Aren’t we both adults here?”
Renaldo tentatively reached for the straw that Emily had placed in her lemonade, his throat suddenly dry. “I don’t know Em, it just isn’t safe for us to have a personal relationship when my job is to protect you.” Renaldo knew this wasn’t the whole truth and it was verified when his hand accidentally touched hers. He refused to acknowledge the current of electricity that went through his body.
“Protecting me never stopped you from being my friend before. Not until that night, the night Nikolas and I ended. Why?” Emily knew the answer, at least her answer, she wanted to hear it from Renaldo.
Renaldo looked into her eyes and was lost. “I think you know, Emily.”
“I know that we were friends. Nothing changed that. I don’t deny something changed that night, but at the same time I don’t see why it should cause us to throw away a wonderful friendship. Please Renaldo, I want to be able to come home and talk to you, share things with you - things that no one else seems to understand.” Emily watched the expression on Renaldo’s face, hoping that he would see her point.
Renaldo knew something had changed too. He was this close to falling in love with his boss’ sister. How many times over the past two weeks had he prayed for a moment like this? Too many, he thought. “Alright, Emily, friends it is. I’ve missed you too.”
“Thank you.” Emily smiled and for the better part of an afternoon the two sat and talked about nothing. And everything. After their third lemonade,they agreed that no one would tell Jason about Emily’s stunt.
Jason was sitting in his office, thinking. Emily was scheduled to leave in three days and he still hadn’t thought of a way to keep her protected in Pennsylvania. He had sent his men up to do surveys of the campus and the housing situation. Not wanting to deal with the eccentricities of a roommate, Emily had chosen to live in an on-campus apartment alone, a privilege that only wealthy upper classmen were allotted. Jason’s men had the whole area checked out for possible danger to Emily. He was not happy with the results.
It seemed that Emily’s apartment backed up to the agricultural center. The closest building, the creamery, was a good quarter-mile to the east. Sure the apartment complex was large, but any trained man could get in a window unnoticed and kidnap Emily, or worse, kill her. Jason slammed his fist down on the table. There had to be a way for Emily to keep her dream and him to feel comfortable about the fact that she was going to be out of Port Charles.
He looked down at the brochure his fist had landed on. Housing options at Pennsylvania State University. He picked it up and began flipping through it. Suddenly a plan formed in his mind and he picked up the phone. He dialed the number he had committed to memory. It seemed he had a contact in the housing office at PSU, he would cash in on the favor she owed him now.
Emily spent the drive up to University Park in a state of Euphoria. Both her grandfather and Jason had wanted to drive her, but she had insisted on making the trip into her new life alone. She knew that Jason’s men were probably behind her somewhere, but she ignored their presence. Soon she would be in her little studio apartment, unpacking her stuff and embarking on her new journey.
She thought back to her good byes with her family. Monica and Alan had wished her well, and grandfather grudgingly hugged her. The good byes and the penthouse were much harder to bear. She was going to miss Jason and Carly tremendously, but she comforted herself with the fact that when she came home at the Semester break she would be a member of their wedding party. “Remember Carly, any maid-of-honor questions come up, just give me a call.” Emily held back tears as she hugged her best friend/future sister-in-law. Jason seemed relaxed, surprisingly enough, and said his good byes in the typical Jason fashion, simply and to the point.
Emily fought back a fresh wave of tears as thoughts of the good bye she had shared with Renaldo entered her mind. He had told her he would be gone when she left in the morning, so they had made time the afternoon before to share their traditional lemonade. “I’ll miss you. Just promise me that when I get back you will still be here.” Emily reached out and held his hand. “Don’t I get a good bye hug?” She saw the hesitation in Renaldo’s eyes, but he gave in and pulled her into his arms. She had to force herself to break contact. “We’ll see each other before you know it, Emily.” Emily nodded and walked away before she changed her mind about going altogether.
In another car about fifty miles ahead of Emily a nervous Renaldo drove onto the Penn State campus. He thought back to the previous afternoon with Emily. He could still hear her voice as she asked for a good bye hug. He could still feel the heat of her body against his. He hadn’t lied when he said they would meet again soon, he just hoped Emily would forgive his deceitfulness. Renaldo followed the directions that Jason’s contact had given and drove toward the Office of Residential Life on the campus. Judging from the gridlock, it seemed that every other car entering the campus wanted to go the same direction. He sighed and shifted the car into neutral, prepared to wait it out. With nothing to keep his mind in the present, he thought back to the moment two days ago, when Jason had let him in on his plan.
Renaldo was sitting on guard outside the penthouse, pretending to read the newspaper. He refused to admit to himself how much he was going to miss having Emily around; he had grown to count on her presence. Even during the time they had been avoiding each other, he still relied on catching a glimpse of her. It’s what kept him sane; now he wondered what would fill the void that her leaving would inevitably create. The sound of the door opening behind him startled him back to reality.
“Renaldo, can you come inside for a moment, Johnny will take over your post here.” Jason had a serious expression on his face, one that made Renaldo tense immediately. He knew almost immediately he was not going to like what he was about to hear. “Sure, Boss.”
Renaldo followed Jason inside. When the door closed, Jason turned to him. “Can I get you anything? A drink?” Renaldo felt the ground buckle underneath his feet, and he forced himself to remain standing. Whenever the Boss offered you something to drink the news was never good. Apparently Renaldo was being released from his position. He forced his voice to remain neutral. “No thank you sir. If you don’t mind my asking, sir, what is this all about?”
Jason almost laughed out loud. Renaldo was always
the epitome of calm, today though Jason had finally broken through that
serene exterior. Jason was sure that if he looked closely, he would
see small beads of perspiration on his brow. To cover his amusement,
Jason cleared his throat. “Renaldo, as you know, my sister has decided
to move away from Port Charles and my protection. Though I must admit
I don’t want her to go, I also realize that I cannot force her to stay.
Due to the territorial war that is currently being waged between our organization
and that of Dominic Franco, and the threats against her, I cannot let Emily
leave unprotected.” Jason paused waiting for Renaldo’s questions,
when none came he continued. “I have called in a few favors and have
come up with a plan for everyone to have what they want. Rather,
what they need,” Jason clarified. “I need someone I trust, someone
who knows Emily and her whims to be her constant guard. She, of course,
will be resistant to this plan, but I have taken steps to ensure that at
least until the end of this academic year she is protected. Renaldo,
you are my most trusted man, and I have chosen you to go with Emily and
protect her, with your own life if need be.”
At once Renaldo felt excitement and dread. He would get to spend every day with Emily, but she would be furious, not only with Jason, but with him as well. He was loyal to Jason and wouldn’t question the logic of his plan out loud, but he would toss it over and over in his mind. Somehow he realized that Jason had stopped talking and was waiting for his response. “OK, Mr. Morgan. Whatever you need.” Renaldo’s standard reply gave him the space he needed, he could half listen to the rest of what Jason had to say, while at the same time mulling the whole thing over in his mind.
After spending the better part of the afternoon with Jason, Renaldo said his “goodbyes” to Emily and headed home to pack. He spent the night and the entire next day in limbo between joy and apprehension. He wouldn’t be without Emily, but what would her reaction to his forced presence in her life be?
The insistent honking of a car horn broke him out of his reverie. He looked up and swore under his breath. There was a perky coed headed his way, obviously intent on investigating the hold up. He grudgingly rolled down his window. “Sir are you alright?” Her smile faltered slightly at the unreadable expression on his face.
“Yes, I apologize for holding up traffic.” Renaldo
smiled out of duty and then asked the faithful question. “Can you
lead me to the married-student housing administrative offices?” Renaldo
felt the knots in his stomach increase as he caught the young woman’s tell
tale glance at his left hand and the shiny new ring he had placed on his
finger that morning. “Oh, that explains it. Well, congratulations.”
Renaldo listened as the directions were given, and sighed heavily after
the window was rolled up. “Yeah, that explains it,” he said to himself
as he headed towards his new assignment.
<Two hours later>
Emily’s euphoria had given way to annoyance. She had followed the instructions in her orientation packet to a T. She even arrived earlier than instructed to avoid any last minute hassles. Now they were trying to tell her that she was not on the list for studio number 145C. “Ah, I’ve found it Mrs. Bowen-Quartermaine. Apparently you have a surprise waiting for you.” Emily caught the ‘Mrs.’ but opted to let it slide. She watched as the matronly woman laid a map on the counter top and mapped out a route for Emily to follow in florescent green highlighter pen. Emily’s jaw dropped when the woman circled a building in the married-student housing cluster. “You are going to be in building 615, apartment 2222. Good luck to you.”
Before Emily could respond the person in line behind her approached the counter and all but pushed her out of the way. “Wait a minute, there has to be a mistake.” The matronly woman, now clearly annoyed, stopped talking to the student she was assisting and glared at Emily. “Listen Mrs. Bowen-Quartermaine, any problems now have to be taken up with married-student housing. Their administrative offices are highlighted on the map. Good day.” Frustrated, Emily sighed and left the building.
When she arrived at married-student complex, she felt immediately out of place. Here, families were moving in to two and three bedroom apartments together. This was not the experience she had in mind, but she could stick it out for a week or two until they found her another studio. She entered the administrative offices and approached the desk. A young brunette was behind the counter.
“May I help you?” Emily smiled. “Yes, apparently
there has been some kind of a mix up with my housing arrangements.”
Emily handed the woman her ID card and started to explain only to be cut
off. “Oh! Mrs. Quartermaine! We have been expecting you.
Your husband is already here. He has your keys in your apartment.
Right out this door and to your left, past the pool and the playground.”
Before Emily could protest the woman walked away. What was going
on here? She had no choice but to see what awaited her in apartment