"The only safe place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - C.S. Lewis
February 13, 1998
In the midst of a clear winter night in Port Charles, Brenda Barrett sleeps peacefully on the living room couch of her new home. Candlelight and quiet fill the cozy, newly decorated salon. Silently, the front door opens and a visitor walks in. Moving cautiously in the dim, unfamiliar room, they find a lamp and switch it on.
Turning to take in the room, Sonny Corinthos sees his erstwhile fianc�e asleep on the couch. With a small smile on his face, he walks over to the sofa and stares at Brenda. He doesn't know why, since this is not his house and he has never seen it before, he feels as if he has come home.
Brenda's cheeks are slightly flushed in the lamplight. She exhibits no inner turmoil as she sleeps, but Sonny knows otherwise. Reluctant to let her out of his sight, he pulls up an armchair and sits directly across from the couch. As the time ticks by, he gently strokes her cheek and hair. He wonders how he ever had the strength to leave her. Truthfully, he doesn't know how, but is only glad he did so that he could be sure of her safety - at least her physical safety - before he came back.
Dying to talk to Brenda but unwilling to wake her, he decides to visit the kitchen and the rest of the ground floor. He walks out of the room and as Brenda continues to sleep, the very first thin stripes of light enter the pitch black of the night sky.
4 hours later...
Waking, Brenda stretches and breathes deeply for several moments. A strange aroma enters her senses and she opens her eyes to see a new arrangement of silver-gray sterling roses on the table directly in front of her. Looking around, she sees a long black coat folded over the armchair and recognizes it immediately.
Fighting to remain calm, she stands and slips on her gray cotton robe. As she draws it shut, she hears someone come to the doorway of the kitchen and say softly, "Good morning, sweetheart."
Slowly, she turns to face Sonny, who is wearing a simple white shirt, black jacket and pants. He looks thinner than he did last September, but otherwise the same. He cocks his head to the side, looking at her, and then slowly extends his right hand. Steadily holding his gaze, she walks over to where he is waiting for her.
Brenda: You came back.
Sonny: I had to. Robin said you needed -
She doesn't let him continue. Her eyes blazing, her mouth contorts. She steps forward and brings her right hand back to slap his face. Moving quickly, he catches her hand in his, brings it down to the level of his chest and holds it.
Sonny: Please don't hit me, Brenda. You know how it hurts me.
Glaring at him, she wrenches her hand free from his grasp.
Brenda: So that's how you got a key and why Robin stayed at the penthouse last night. How dare you think you can play Prince Charming, magically come back to save desolate little me?
Sonny: Brenda, I swear on my mother's name, I had a bag packed and ready to come back to Port Charles even before Robin made Jason dial my number so she could talk to me. As soon as I hung up the phone, I picked it up and walked out without looking back. I knew that leaving with no word to you or Mike was wrong, but I didn't know how much damage it would cause.
Brenda: (looking down nervously) Damage to whom?
Sonny: To you, for one. Robin told about your...difficulty. I know that it might not all have been attributed to me, but I know I made it worse, and I accept full blame for it.
Brenda: I don't need you to take charge of me or my "difficulties", as you call them. They no longer concern you. I'm taking full charge of my life now.
Sonny watches her closely, but says nothing.
Brenda: Oh, that's right. I'd forgotten how much I'd missed your sparkling conversation.
Sonny has no response. After glaring at him for a minute, Brenda walks over to him and holds out her hand.
Brenda: Give me my key.
Sonny gives it up to her without comment. She shoves it into the pocket of her robe and marches into the kitchen. Sonny lets out a deep breath and looks around the room again. On a small table, he sees a picture of himself, Brenda, Robin and Stone that was taken during one of their long evenings filled with dancing, music, laughter and Sonny's cooking. Sonny doesn't know it, but it's one of the few that survived Brenda's recent mass mutilation of photos that had her face in them.
As he reflects on better times, Brenda comes into the room dressed in a navy cotton top and jeans with her hair in a high ponytail. She is carrying a cup of black coffee. Crossing to the table, she trades it with Sonny for the picture he is holding and places it back on the table.
Sonny: That's a great picture.
Brenda: Yes, it is. Thinking about good times with Robin and Stone always makes me happy.
The omission of his name doesn't escape Sonny, and he sighs heavily. After looking at him for a long moment, Brenda speaks up.
Brenda: What were you thinking about?
Sonny: I love you. (Brenda is shocked. Her eyes open wide.) That's what I was thinking about. How lucky we are to feel the way we do about each other, even when we're angry. Like in Canada.
Brenda: (laughs bitterly) Canada. Really. When? When you ridiculed me in front of your wife or whisked her away in your arms like a princess after she called me a slut in front of a room full of people?
Sonny: (sighs) Not the lodge, Brenda - I should have never taken Lily there. After the hit and run, I was going crazy with you in the hospital, and I - (takes a deep breath) I thought if I went far enough away, that I would be able to stop worrying about you. No such luck. But that's not the issue here - I was thinking about the cabin. (He steps much closer to Brenda, close enough to touch her.) Remember what you did, sweetheart. You found the cabin, went off alone in sub-zero cold and got yourself trapped in an avalanche, you -
Brenda: (indignant) The avalanche was not part of the plan.
Sonny: So fine, whatever. Maybe it was fate giving us a little time alone together. The point is, you risked your life just to prove to me that we belonged together. I treated you rotten the whole time we were there -
Brenda softly interrupts.
Brenda: Not the whole time.
Sonny: (smiles as he remembers their kiss, then continues) You know, I thought about how you were in the cabin later when we got home, and I would get so hot. I would start shaking all over, I couldn't think straight. I couldn't believe how determined you were - (he steps forward and cups her chin in his hand, making her look at him.) We were both furious, but you still told me you loved me. Brenda, no one's ever wanted me that much. You showed me that you wouldn't give up, and I knew then that I couldn't either. (There is a pause as he makes sure she is listening to him.) That was the best gift you ever gave us. You didn't care about what was right or wrong or sensible. All you could see was what you wanted...and all you wanted was us.
He wants to give Brenda a kiss and steps forward to take her face in his hand, but she moves away. Brenda tries to hide it, but she is very affected by Sonny's speech. She then tries to scoff it off.
Brenda: That's very true. Brains were never my strong suit.
Sonny: Don't go there. I won't let you use me as an excuse to beat yourself up.
Brenda: (scoffs) Spare me your altruism. I don't need you to be the guardian of my emotional well-being and self-esteem.
Sonny: No, I'm sure Jax has been doing a great job of that while I've been gone. Is that why he went away - he finally figured out that he'd never have a chance because you'd always be thinking if me?
Brenda: You're conceited and disgusting. He's on a business trip. Unlike you, he warns his loved ones before he takes long trips.
Bullseye. Sonny stands in hurt silence for a moment.
Sonny: You want me to tell you where I was?
Brenda: No, I -
Sonny: Please, listen to me. I've loved you for over four years, Brenda. The least you can do is give me as many minutes.
Brenda looks down, silently acquiescing.
Sonny: I went to Asia. I was in Hong Kong for awhile and Singapore for a little bit.
Brenda: What on earth did you do there? You'd never been there before, you don't know anyone there -
Sonny: Exactly. So what would have seemed like a lonely desert for me to my enemies was actually the safest place for me to be. If I'd gone to Puerto Rico or Cuba, I'd have been dead long before I got the chance to realize what I'd done and go through the pain of being without you.
Brenda: (quietly) Would that have been better for you? When you left before the wedding, did you really think the best alternative was for someone to kill you and leave me completely alone?
Sonny: (admits it quietly) At the time? Yeah, I guess that's what I thought.
Brenda is silent for a moment, her eyes wide and her expression unreadable even to Sonny. Suddenly, she lets fly, hitting him without restraint, pushing him, pounding her fists against his chest when he does not move away from her onslaught, and screaming at him.
Brenda: What is the MATTER WITH YOU! Sonny, God, what is the matter with you? What else do I have to do for you? I can't - I can't -
She runs out of breath and steam, falling heavily forward against him. For a moment, his shaking hands linger above her back before he exhales heavily and lets his chin rest on the top of her head. After a moment, she looks up at him, calmer but also saddened.
Brenda: (shakes her head) That's it. There's nothing more I can do for you or for us. I told you I loved you, and you didn't care. I tried in my own stupid way to get you out of a life that I knew was going to kill you someday and you left me for it. I came back to find you from jail waiting like some gift from God in my bedroom and I threw my arms around you and hugged so tight. I didn't ever want to let you go, and you left me with an I-love-you and a kiss on the forehead like you were throwing me some bone. I was involved in a fire where I was almost badly hurt, and you chose to devote your concern to a piece of lace instead. I learned a lot from you that day.
Sonny winces, remembering how awful he was to her the day she came, contrite, to the penthouse and tried to explain about that. Not caring, Brenda continues.
Brenda: You spent the last four years loving me and fitting me into your life at your convenience, and I was so crazy for you that I condoned it. It took the non-wedding to finally open my eyes. So when did you come up with the plan?
Sonny: What plan, sweetheart?
Brenda: (sighs impatiently) You know damn well what plan I'm talking about; you want me to say it out loud? Fine, Sonny. I'm talking about your plan to leave me in the church with your father and all of my friends and punish me for ever thinking that I was good enough for you to marry.
Listening to her, Sonny is horrified at how well the flawlessly executed plan worked. He is terribly upset, but swallows hard and tries to give Brenda the explanation he so desperately owes her.
Sonny: Brenda, that last night - (his voice breaks and he has to pause and clear his throat) From the day I proposed to you while we were being held in Florida to the day I gave you my mother's ring to the morning we were supposed to get married and I saw you off to the church, I had every intention of going through with the wedding and taking you away with me. (She stares at him, her face utterly free of all emotion. Desperate, he grasps for her hand.) Brenda? You believe me, don't you?
Brenda: (shrugs) Whether I do or don't, what does it matter?
Sonny: Oh, it matters plenty. Brenda, there's almost nothing more I wanted then to marry you right then.
Brenda: (laughs) Oh, that's great. The story of my life. What did you want more than me, Sonny?
Sonny: To keep you safe.
Brenda: No. No, we talked about that, we discussed it. We agreed that we were both willing to accept whatever risks came from running, and I promised I would stay with you no matter what.
Sonny: I know you did. But the night before the wedding, when I woke you up screaming your name and you thought I'd had a bad dream...you were right.
Brenda: I thought so. (Seeing how very saddened Sonny is by even the memory of the dream over five months later, concern starts to override her anger.) What was the dream about?
Sonny: That last night at Luke's....Lily was wearing a pink dress. It hugged her shoulders and swirled around her knees while she walked to the car. Her heels clicked on the pavement while I joked with Mike and Luke. She opened the car door and turned around...and it was you.
Brenda closes her eyes, starting to understand.
Sonny: I didn't see, I didn't know. You smiled at me, and I waited for you while you started the car. We were so happy. (His breathing is becoming labored as he fights tears back.) I didn't know, I heard the blast...it happened just the same. I saw you go...I saw you die.
He dissolves into tears and cannot say any more. Brenda, understanding now and unable to stand seeing him cry, goes to Sonny and puts her arms around him. He wraps his arms around her and squeezes her so tightly as to constrict her breathing. She strokes his back and doesn't mind, but steps back after a minute so she can talk to him.
Brenda: I understand how scary that must have been...but what you did was still wrong. Imagine if someone had come after me or Mike and you hadn't have been here. Imagine if you'd been hurt in Asia with no one there to protect you. Sonny, how could you think that running off alone was the best solution?
Sonny: I know it was wrong, sweetheart, and I'm sorry. I swear, I didn't mean to hurt or embarrass you. I didn't mean to trick you about the wedding, but I made the decision to leave right before I was supposed to leave for the church and I was afraid that if saw you, I wouldn't be able to go through with it. I regretted it even while part of me still thought it was the correct thing to do, but now I'm going to make it right. Understand, honey, we have all the time in the world for you to forgive me. I'm not going anywhere.
Brenda: You're not leaving again?
Sonny: Not unless you come with me. (He smiles.) You know, I always had this fantasy about living with you on a...really peaceful desert island with palm trees and coconuts and beautiful sunsets and a beach just like the one we had in Puerto Rico. (She can't help smiling, and he laughs.) But I'm sure you don't want to leave your beautiful house just when you got it set up, so I guess I will be staying in Port Charles.
Brenda: You're serious about that?
Sonny: (nods) Absolutely. Anywhere you are is my home...anything else is just four walls.
Brenda: Sonny, I don't understand how you can be so confident that you and I will be together again, and that I'll still even...
Sonny: Marry me? (She nods.) Of course I am. I have to be that sure of us - one of us needs to be, and you need time. I can give you that now. You'll see, baby - it's going to be great. I'm going to come here and cook you some nice dinners, and you and I are going to hang out at Luke's just like we used to. Also, I'm going to take you to New York so we can see some shows and stay at the Plaza Hotel.
Brenda: (her eyes are wide; she is struck quiet by the strength of his convictions) You have this all planned out.
Sonny: Absolutely, sweetheart - it's what kept me going while I was away. Now listen to me, Brenda. (He steps forward and gives her a kiss on the forehead.) I understand that things in your life are different and that I have to fit into it - I can do that. If you can forgive me, everything else will fall into place.
Brenda: (sighs) Wow, I - um. (She has to step back and shake her head to clear her thoughts a little.) You know what? (He nods.) I can try and forgive you for the bad timing because I know how scary that must have been - I've had nightmares about losing you too. The fear that kind of dream causes makes you do things you normally wouldn't. (He nods and smoothes a lock of hair behind her ear.) But even if try and forgive you, I just don't know how it can work after we've tried so many times.
She takes a deep breath and continues.
You know, Sonny, I've thought about it a lot, and I really think you need to accept that we don't go together. We're like fire and ice, and when we combine all we get is this steam that's hot, but that blinds you and burns you all the same. And all the while, you know that someday it's going to run out and leave you cold.
Sonny: You can do lots of things with steam, Brenda. Cook, get warm -
Brenda: Yeah, sure. They also used steam to run the "Titanic".
Sonny: (smiles but gently persists) Brenda...I know it's a lot to digest, but three main things I want you to know are this. First of all, I'm not going anywhere, and I have no intention of letting you go. Second of all, you are safe. No one has come after you yet, and they have nothing to gain by hurting you. I won't let anything happen to you. And last of all...I love you. I love you even more now than I did when I left. I missed you, and most of all, I'm proud of you.
Brenda is listening quietly, so he takes advantage of this and presses on.
Sonny: I don't mean to be condescending when I say I'm proud of you. But I put you through a lot - so much - and you bore like no one else could.
Brenda: (shakes her head) No, I - I think you have the wrong idea, Sonny. I was a mess after you left. I got so scared one day that they had to restrain me and put me in the hospital. (She pauses.) I'm in therapy right now.
Sonny: Good for you, sweetheart. (She looks up, surprised.) I'll have to get Dr. Baldwin's card from you. I had to be a little crazy to think I could live without you...maybe I could use some therapy myself. (They both laugh.) Honestly, baby, you did a great job. You coped with the loneliness, you made yourself a beautiful home, you accepted help from Robin and the doctor...I'm proud of you. But I still can't help feeling responsible for what you went through.
Brenda: I understand that. But I'm not some child for you to guide and protect, Sonny. I don't need tough love - just love.
Sonny: (pauses, staring at her) Brenda, what are you saying?
Brenda: Only that I love you. (Sonny is clearly shocked, and she smiles.) Hadn't I told you that yet? (Awed, Sonny shakes his head no, and she continues.) No matter what happens, I always have and I still do. Anything else, I'm afraid I can't promise you right now. But I want you in my life, no matter what direction it takes...I missed you, Sonny. We all did. (He gives her a hug, and after a moment she continues.) So what are you going to do?
Sonny: Primarily? (She nods.) Help keep Robin and Jason and the baby safe. The stakes are much higher now, and I owe him.
Brenda: (shakes her head) But Jason won't accept help from you. If you offer, he'll just say that he chose this life himself.
Sonny: He did. No one's disputing that. But his reasons for choosing it had a lot to do with helping us, even though you didn't realize that. Jason is smart, Brenda, and he doesn't let pride get in his way. If he doesn't understand something, he knows to get help. He got a housekeeper and a nanny for the baby, and he knows that he can't protect the baby all on his own.
Brenda: That's good, but how will you occupy yourself?
Sonny: (amused) What do you mean?
Brenda: What will you do with yourself?
Sonny: (grinning at her) Well, I'm not going to be a playboy, if that's what you're implying. (Brenda laughs. Although she won't say it, the thought had crossed her mind.) Don't forget, I still have my ELQ stock. Jason kept it in trust for me, but it's still mine. And Luke offered to sell me back my shares of the club - I think I might take him up on it.
Brenda: Luke's a real friend to you. (Sonny nods.) Too bad he doesn't like me.
Sonny: Luke likes you fine. And Mike loves you like a daughter. (He saddens.) Some son I was. All those years I hated him for running away, and I didn't behave any better. I wouldn't blame him if he never forgave me.
Brenda: Mike loves you as much as I do. He would forgive you anything. It might take a little time, but the hurt will go away. Besides, he'll understand when you explain to him why you left.
Sonny: (brightens a little) Maybe you're right. (He pauses and smiles at her.) I'm going to get your ring back from him so you can wear it again.
Brenda: Wait a minute. How did you know that I had given Mike back the ring?
Sonny: Well, you're not wearing it, and I know you wouldn't have thrown it out or stuck it in a box, so you must have given it back to Mike. I'll go to see him later, and then you can wear it whenever you're ready.
Sonny moves forward, reaches out to hold her face in his hand, and, slowly leaning in, softly kisses her lips. She accepts his caress but remains still in his grasp.
Brenda: (smiles) I know that your intentions were good and that you were trying to do right by me. But when you deny yourself, you deny me too. (She shakes her head.) Don't do that anymore.
Sonny: I promise. (He smiles.) You know what today is?
Brenda peeks at the calendar hanging on the wall. She suddenly sees in her mind's eye two shiny new luxury cars and two even shinier dark eyes smiling at her. She misses them, aches for them...but her vision clears and she sees that they're still there in front of her.
Sonny: Happy Valentine's Day, sweetheart.
Brenda: Happy Valentine's Day.
Reaching up, she gently kisses his lips and then accepts his embrace. Brenda smiles - everything seems much simpler now than it ever has. Whatever happens, she knows that she has enough love in her heart for all her friends and surrogate family - Lois, Brooke Lynn, Mike, Ruby, Lila, Ned, Robin and Sonny too. There has to be, because when someone enters your heart, you have to rearrange the space. You have to shelve your own pride and doubts to make room for trust, yours and theirs.
Fortunately, your heart, like that of the Grinch in the classic Christmas tale, becomes bigger and wider the more that people love you and you accept their love. Brenda's feels full and blooming in her chest like a warm red rose. Love is usually a winning game of chance. If you give forth fear, you might get reassurance...and if you show forgiveness, gratitude and new beginnings are usually the result. Standing proudly in Sonny's arms, Brenda takes pleasure in the familiar embrace taking place in new surroundings and in the thought of other new things to come. Because besides love, of which she has plenty, one of the greatest gifts in life comes with a positive outlook and things to look forward to...and now she has those as well.