Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Todd," Evangeline's voice appealed for a positive response from her husband of fourteen years but all she got was a big fat, "No," the suppressed anger evident in his tone.
Todd rolled over on his back, clasped his hands behind his head, frustrated blue orbs stared hard at the impressive vaulted ceiling in the semi-darkness. A few minutes after taking off his shirt she approached him wanting to talk. Of course he obliged not really knowing where the conversation might lead. Usually these discussions focused primarily on the kids or whatever plans they might have for the next day but she really threw him for a loop this time around.
"But Baby..." Her left palm slowly drifted across his taut bare chest.
His body reacted instantly but he begrudgingly reigned in his mind and libido. For the time being this conversation remained far too important to go down that road...maybe later.
He reiterated, "Evangeline you and I both decided that raising our kids would be our first priority and work secondary."
"I don't disagree," she readily replied. "My mom is just asking this favor of me for one of her closest friends."
"Yes. Does it really matter?" Evangeline's eyes mimicked the cynicism in her response.
"That woman still hates my guts," he mumbled under his breath.
"You've already said yes haven't you?" Evangeline nodded. "Why?" he let out a frustrated sigh.
"In all our years of marriage, how many times have I asked for your support in such a big way?"
"That's not the point Evangeline. It's a freaking death penalty case." Todd struggled to contain his growing anger then suddenly he sprang out of the bed, a deep furrow evident on his forehead. "It will take many nights, weeks, months, possibly even years away from us and our family. You know I know that better than anyone. How could your mother ask such a huge favor when you have a family that needs you?"
"Honey," she said in a soothing voice. She followed him off the bed and started caressing the side of his face. "I'm not taking this on as Mr. Giles' attorney. I'll merely be handling the research, the side work...like a paralegal. It won't take as long as you believe."
"With whom?" he immediately questioned, the corners of his lips curved downward. It's not that he didn't trust his wife; he didn't trust the men in her presence.
"Oh come on Todd. There's nothing for you to be jealous over," she countered, rolling her eyes, allowing her hand to drop to her side. "Larry Thompson is in his sixties, married with three children and eight grandchildren."
"You never know these days."
"Todd, be serious," she replied rather annoyed, folding her arms beneath her breasts.
That tense look in his eyes eased and he exhaled. "Yet I'm certain grandpa has a more than capable legal assistant in his office."
The conversation had reached an impasse then Todd began gently stroking along her forearms.
"Come on Evangeline what's really going on here? What aren't you telling me?"
He knew her too well. She took a moment to collect her thoughts, attempting to frame her response in the best possible way so that he may understand her reasoning.
"I was honestly going to tell my mom no at first but she gave me a gentle reminder that I haven't been practicing my craft in quite a while - which is true." He chose not to argue that point. "For the past three and half years I've devoted myself to raising our family. This little side work will give my mind a refresher for that moment when I do decide to go back to practicing law full time. Besides I do have that added advantage of..."
"Okay, okay but if I feel that it's taking too much away from us and this family, we will discuss this again and I believe that time I won't be in such a supportive mood."
"Understood...," she sighed. Her eyes fell away from his. She really hoped it didn't come to that.
He lifted her chin with his index finger. "Evangeline I'm still not sure about this but I'm willing to give my support for now..."
She grasped his face, placing an ardent kiss on his lips. "That's all I'm asking."
"Four weeks Evangeline," he quickly added, "and after that they better find someone else."
She opened her mouth to speak but thought better of it. No lawyer speak could ever sway her husband once his mind's made up.
"Four weeks," she shook her head in agreement.
He cleared his throat and said, "Still Mrs. Manning you need to make it worth my while."
She heard the sensual undertones in his statement. "Is that so Mr. Manning," she replied breathily, taking a few steps away from him. She loosened her ponytail, shaking out those long, silky, dark strands that drove him wild. She bit her bottom lip while sliding the straps of her camisole down her shoulders. Afterwards she shimmied out of her booty shorts and tossed it at him. He caught it within his grasp taking a pleasurable sniff before returning his gaze.
"Like what you see?"
Todd swallowed a couple of times. "I see what I've always wanted, desired, loved." His pupils dilated with lust.
His eyes never grew tired at gazing at the loveliness of his wife; the perfect angle of her neck, the fullness of her breasts so beautifully formed - erect chocolate nipples aching to be teased, squeezed, and suckled along with all those many luscious curves craving his expert touch. Already fully aroused, he quickly stripped off his trousers and boxers. Evangeline licked her lips, eyes fixed on his rock hard shaft.
"Like what you see Mrs. Manning?"
He closed the gap between them then pulled her roughly against his chest, kissing her hard on the lips and their lovemaking proceeded from there. Nearly an hour or so, the room carried the echoes of their passionate sighs, moans and groans until they were completely sated, gasping for precious oxygen.
Todd turned on his side facing her. The years of marriage hadn't dimmed his enthusiasm, adoration or passion for her. He briefly recalled all the turmoil in his life before she came along changing his world and his expectations but still there were times when he believed that he didn't deserve any of it. Her chocolate brown eyes became a mirror to his soul. What did she see?
"What?" Evangeline's brown eyes also questioned. He was silently staring at her, intensely, for quite a while.
He smoothed back her stray hairs then softly said, "I love you."
"I love you more."
Their swollen lips locked again. Afterwards they embraced, drifting off into a peaceful slumber.
The general rule in the Manning household was that all members were expected to show up at breakfast or they would be hell to pay especially from their dad. The family was usually present around the table at 6:30 a.m. This morning the fare included pancakes, toast, eggs, bacon and cereal with orange juice, coffee and milk. Todd and Evangeline sat adjacent to one another with Evan in between on his high chair and Evelyn seated closely by her dad. Jack who was on a two week break from college, sat at the other end of the table with Tangie and TT on either side of him.
"Dad would you make Jack stop. He's being gross and disgusting," she eagerly complained in the midst of sipping her juice.
After munching on his cereal, Jack opened his mouth to show Tangie its contents before swallowing. There were times he really enjoyed baiting his sister and vice versa.
"What are brothers for?"
"It's a wonder you even got into college given your level of maturity."
"Such a full thought out sentence with a complex word at the end," he answered with amusement.
"Does Keke know that you're still..."
"Guys cool it," Todd warned at the same time buttering his last piece of toast.
Tangie stuck out her tongue at Jack who rolled his eyes. Rather than paying attention to his siblings' shenanigans, TT was focused on his geography book while munching on his Rice Crispies. Thankfully Jack's presence was providing him a breather from Tangie's antics.
Evan smacked his lips as Evangeline fed him bits of scrambled eggs and toast. "What time is it?" Evangeline enquired of Todd.
"Time for school" Little Evelyn said cheerfully
"Not yet sweetie," Todd smiled giving her arm a little squeeze, "but in a little while. Finish eating your pancake." The pancake was cut neatly into bite size triangles covered with maple syrup.
Evangeline decided this was the best time to make her announcement.
"Everyone, over the next few weeks you might not be seeing much of me until later on in the evenings."
"Four weeks to be exact," Todd clarified.
"Why mommy?" A curious Evelyn enquired.
"Mom, why are you defending that guy?" Tangie wanted to know.
Mr. Edward (Eddy) Giles upcoming trial was the talk of Llanview and many of its residents had already made up their minds deeming him guilty. Mr. Giles' wife and two children were found murdered in an upstairs bedroom without any indication of forced entry or the house being burglarized.
"Tangie your mom isn't defending anyone. She's only offering her assistance on this case as a favor to your grandmother. Besides she never takes on a case unless she believes the person is innocent. Do you understand?"
"Yes dad," Tangie replied quietly.
"My working also means that your father will mainly be in charge and I don't want anyone giving him any grieve or you must bear the consequences. I'll be in full support of any punishment that he deals out."
"Yes mom," everyone agreed solemnly.
"Alright those who need to grab your bags let's go, let's go," Todd instructed while rising from his seat.
"Mom, Dad don't forget that Keke is coming over tonight for dinner."
"I promise to be home early."
Before leaving Tangie, TT and Evelyn gave their mom a small hug and a kiss on the cheek. For extra measure Tangie whacked Jack at the back of his head; a chase soon ensued with TT and Evelyn trailing behind them.
"I swear Manning there is too much adrenaline running through your children," she teased with a slight grin.
"Oh so now they're my children."
Evangeline closed her eyes as Todd leaned forward bestowing a lingering kiss on her lips.
"Just a reminder," Todd winked then he turned and kissed Evan on his forehead.
"Da...Da...Da..." Evan said, repeatedly hitting the tray with his palms.
"I love you too buddy. See you both later."
Evangeline took a moment, her left palm on her cheek, watching him walk away. "Hmm hmm hmm."
"Hey I know you're eyeballing my great ass."
"It belongs to me remember," she yelled after him. "Keep taking good care of it."
"I aim to please," came his cocky reply.
When Evangeline started laughing, Evan squealed with delight.
It seemed everyone Manning household were eagerly expecting Jack and Keke's arrival except for the sleeping Evan, Evelyn who stood stoically by her mother's side gripping her left hand and Tangie stood in the background but not too far enough away to be noticeable. Todd already warned her to be cordial and on her best behavior. She knew it was in part due to Jack. What a tattle tale? She never understood what the big deal was about Keke. Maybe her parents finally believed that things were looking up for Jack. It seemed Keke made a great impression in his life. When she decided to attend Princeton, Jack applied and got accepted at Mercer County Community College. Now he wants to have a career in media. Yeah they adored her. Even more apparent when the happy couple finally made their appearance and shared greetings. Tangie received a quick hey and she waved back as expected. Just as Keke exchanged pleasantries, Tangie observed the way in which Jack kept his hand firmly around Keke's waist and a silly smirk on his face. Either he was in love or close to it. Tangie knew that look all too well given that her parents were perfect examples to the point where sometimes she found them ewww worthy.
"That's a beautiful ring." Evangeline noticed it on the forefinger of Keke's left hand.
"It is very exquisite," Keke said admiring it once again, the corners of her lips curved into a smile. "Jack gave me such a wonderful gift. It was such an unexpected surprise," she gushed.
Evangeline continued smiling. On the other hand both Todd and Tangie had raised eyebrows.
"It's a promise ring." Jack grasped Keke's hand and she turned to look at him. "I'm finally seeing my future much clearer and I know what I want and with whom I want to share it."
Todd coughed briefly. "I see."
"Don't worry dad that's far into the future."
"How far?" Todd asked rather seriously.
"Todd," Evangeline smacked his arm, "please, you're embarrassing them. They're both sensible and will finish their education. There's a time for everything."
"Definitely," Keke and Jack simultaneously agreed with embarrassed grins on their faces.
"Right," Todd said with a wry smile. "Hey let's all go into the dining room before dinner gets cold." He and Evangeline entwined their fingers, leading the way.
During the short journey TT approached Keke. "Keke you're such a smart girl." Unlike my brother Tangie wanted to say as she followed along but kept quiet. "I believe one day I'll follow in your footsteps and pursue my studies at Princeton."
Keke wrapped an arm around his shoulder and said, "I believe you're way smarter than I am. I see you attending Harvard."
"Wow you really think so?"
"Absolutely Trevor..." "Tangie have you considered which college you may want to attend?" Keke asked attempting to engage Tangie in the conversation.
Tangie was almost caught off guard but had a ready response. "I haven't really considered it but knowing my dad Bryn Mawr may be my first and only option considering Starr's adventures at college."
"I heard that." They heard Todd saying and everyone shared a laugh.
Three weeks had passed and the household attempted to function as normally as would be expected considering Evangeline's persistent absences. Although they barely got an opportunity to interact with her in the mornings, throughout the day the family was able to communicate via the phone or email. Many evenings she arrived home late when the children were already asleep; only able to take a shower and slip into bed beside her husband. Of course Todd wasn't happy especially not being able to fully enjoy the warmth of her body next to his and especially the infrequent sexual encounters. A couple of times he wanted to initiate a little foreplay only to find her sitting in the middle of their king size surrounded by paperwork.
So far he handled the task of sole available parent well enough. The two older kids picked up after themselves and weren't fighting too often these days. Yet he still needed to hire a temporary household assistant named Lydia to help him take care of the little ones as well as the major jobs of cooking, cleaning and laundry. It made him appreciate Evangeline even more but damn did he miss her being around. Quite suddenly there seem to be a huge change in the atmosphere surrounding them. Oh he was trying his best to be "understanding" as Todd could be but Evangeline was pushing his patience to the limit especially after an unexpected phone call.
"Evangeline you need to stop doing this job," he demanded one morning.
"So the great Todd Manning commands," she replied in an irritated voice while she styled her hair in the mirror. "Look Todd..." She spun around to face him. "One more week..."
"Is that really so? You know I received an interesting call from your mother and you know what she's suggesting..."
"Todd I don't have time for this right now," she interrupted slipping on her shoes. "Between you and my mother - you both have my head spinning. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a tennis match with me being the ball. She shouldn't have been speaking to you."
"Of course she would be speaking to me especially when she believes that I'm the person stifling your career."
"That's just mom being mom. You haven't paid attention in years so why start now," she said moving across the room.
Todd raked a hand through his hair. "We need to discuss this situation right now!"
"Well I don't have time to discuss this right now," she threw his words back at him. She paused for a little while.
"...Todd if it helps I'm not taking Mr. Thompson up on his offer ok."
"Later...I promise we'll discuss this later." She grabbed her bag, leaving a chaste kiss on his lips before rushing out of the room. "Remember Tangie has soccer practice."
Todd threw his hands up in the air then flopped down on the bed pretty much defeated. He thought a little about what the old Todd would do but he immediately dismissed those thoughts. All he needed to do is trust his wife.
After a rough day at work, he came home in a foul mood. No matter how hard he tried the conversation with Mama Williamson dominated his thoughts. He recalled a previous conversation when Evangeline was pregnant with Evan. What are you trying to do keep my baby barefoot and pregnant? And now she was on the attack again - The only reason why you won't support her career is because you can't seem to let her be more than just a mother and your wife. He was just about to climb the stairs when he heard Tangie and TT having one of their little spats in the corridor between the dining room and the kitchen.
"You're such a little nerd. What is it with you? You like reading normal people's thoughts."
"I love being smart while you are..."
"Don't you dare say it TT!"
Then I'll spell it D.U.M.B..."
"Give It Back!"
"Hey...Hey...What is going on here? Both of you better make the explanation short because I'm already nursing a growing headache."
"She started it dad. I didn't do anything."
"Except read my journal."
"I didn't read your journal," TT defended. "I told you I found it outside on the ground."
"Liar...if that were true then you would have given it to me right away..."
"Tangie stop." Todd let out a huge breath, massaging his forehead. "TT did you read her journal?"
"No dad...honest. She didn't give me a chance to give it back to her. Here..." Tangie grabbed the journal out of his hand.
"You know what the both of you just go...go to your rooms and I don't want to hear a peep out of you until dinner or you're both grounded. Do I make myself clear?"
There was a little pushing and shoving in between while they ran up the stairs.
"Finally a little bit of peace and quiet," he said to himself as he eased into and leaned back on one of the wing chairs in his living room. This weekend he wanted to take the kids out to Angel Square and maybe over by the water park. He hoped Evangeline would have the energy to tag along.
Soon he heard the approach of small footsteps which stopped by his chair.
"Daddy, are you sick?" Evelyn asked most concern, her tiny fingers touching his arm.
"No sweetheart, just a little tired," he replied hoisting her on his lap. "Where is your little brother?"
"With Lydia...she said that I should come and stay with you. She is still making dinner."
"I hope you weren't giving Lydia any trouble."
"No daddy," she replied shaking her head from side to side.
Evelyn placed the back of her hand on his forehead still a bit concerned.
Todd played along. "What's your diagnosis Dr. Manning?"
Todd couldn't help but chuckle. "Evelyn say it with me... diag"
"Sis," she ended enthusiastically.
Todd leaned back and started laughing.
"What's so funny daddy?" she started laughing along with him.
Todd embraced her tightly and kissed her cheek. "You are funny sweetie."
He felt so happy in that moment. She was adding so much happiness to an otherwise frustrating day.
"As you can see daddy is all better now thanks to you." He kissed her cheek again.
After that little amusement, Evelyn became unusually quiet.
"Evie, where is Bobo?"
Bobo was her pink, stuffed teddy bear which she used to tout around with her until quite recently.
"Resting...," she responded nonchalantly.
He didn't really understand her response but it made him reflect on the fact that last of his girls was growing up - from stuffed toys to dolls and then boys - he shuddered at the thought.
"Why is mommy away so much?"
The questioned stunned his heart and reignited his own feelings of dread.
"Sweetheart she really doesn't want to be away from you but remember when I told you that mommy has a very important job and sometimes she has to be away even when she doesn't want to."
She sighed then said, "I know she helps a lot of people but I miss her. Don't you miss her daddy?"
He snuggled her closer. "I miss her too but it will soon be over...I promise." Evangeline's presence meant so much to all of them that when she wasn't around for a considerable length of time; it started affecting everyone. "You know what... we both deserve a scoop of ice cream before dinner," he said steadying her in his arms as he rose to his feet.
"But mommy says..."
"Shhh...just this one time... I'm sure she will understand."
"Ok daddy," she perked up.
It almost looked strange, Evangeline home early for dinner. She popped in a full forty five minutes before dinner commenced; enough time to take a shower and change. From the moment the family sat down to dinner the children noted a noticeable chasm between their parents. It made the parmesan chicken meal less palatable. Evelyn kept a keen eye on her siblings who only appeared interested in taking small bites, staring at their plates and pushing the remainder of their food around.
"Mom, dad...may I be excused." Tangie was first to speak. TT soon followed with the same request. Both parents gave them permission and requested that they take Evelyn along with them.
"Aren't you going to ask why I'm home this early?" Evangeline put down her fork.
"I don't need to ask." Todd wiped his mouth with his napkin then threw it on the table. "No I'm wondering if you are happy in this life. I really want to know Evangeline if I'm keeping you from fulfilling all that you want to be."
"What the hell are you talking about?" she asked, confusion evident in her stare.
"Your mother always said I would be your downfall. Perhaps she's right; marrying Todd Manning comes with a price. ...I need you Evangeline more than you'll ever need me. This is the life, the family and the most beautiful, intelligent woman that I've ever wanted. It scares me sometimes that I can't live my life without you." He stood up, pushing aside his chair.
"Where are you going?"
She followed him into the kitchen, calmly observing as he opened the fridge, grabbed a beer, popped it opened, drank down its contents in one swallow and discarded the bottle.
"I don't need your pity Evangeline," he said placing his palms on the kitchen island.
"Why do you allow my mother to get to you like that?"
"I don't know ok! ...Maybe deep down I believe what she's saying all along....that I don't know what's best for this family or for you..." Or maybe he felt from the day they met he really wasn't good enough for her. No matter how hard he tried, that sentiment remained at the back of his mind.
"Tangie stop doing that," TT whispered harshly to his sister eavesdropping by the dining room door.
"This is better than sitting around," she whispered back.
"I'm hungry," Evelyn grumbled.
"Shhhh be quiet Evie," Tangie admonished her. "It doesn't sound like they are in the dining room anymore. I'm going in..."
"Tangie...," TT called out to her in vain.
"Let's get one thing clear Manning,' she stated taking gaited steps towards him. "I'm my own woman. I make my own decisions. Neither you nor my mother is going to be the master puppeteers of my life. I'm a damn good wife, mother and one heck of a lawyer."
"Then why quit tonight?"
The question made her reflect momentarily. She shifted her eyes away before redirecting them to his once more.
"It's the best decision I needed to make right now. I try to do the utmost at any task I take on and sometimes that gets in the way of what's best for my life. The hours, my absences were beginning to wear on everyone including myself. I'm not ready to fully take it on...not yet at least. And this thing with my mother...it was all getting to be way too much." She finally stood directly in front of him. "I need you Todd. I need us, this family. Don't you remember how long it took us to get this point in our lives?" She took his hand into hers, rubbing small circles. "There is no job in the world that would make me feel more fulfilled than I do right now." Their eyes locked into an intense stare. "I want you to believe it so much."
"I do believe it for the most part," he replied honestly. He brought her hand to his lips, kissing the inside of her palm. "But you must forgive me if I struggle sometimes." They shared a tight embrace. Afterwards he lifted her chin and they got lost in a passionate kiss.
"Ewwww... would you guys hold off till later," Tangie chuckled.
"Tangie...," her father warned halfheartedly. "Last time I checked you're not the boss of us."
"Ohhh... way to go dad." TT congratulated while Tangie shrugged.
Todd turned to Evangeline again and they shared a sweet kiss. The kids' faces displayed huge smiles; finally being able to relax around their parents.
"Mom, dad, we're hungry." TT and Tangie blurted out.
Evelyn pouted. "I said it first but nobody was listening to me."
Todd scooped up his daughter, placing her on the kitchen island. "Well we're listening now sweetheart," he said kissing her forehead.
"We can order a couple of pizzas," Evangeline offered as she prepared to leave. "Todd you make the phone call while I go and check on Evan."
"Alright Babe...." Todd kissed her cheek then pulled out his cell. "We'll let Tangie pay for them out of her allowance," he teased with a small chuckle.
"Then we might as well starve," TT said in mocked consternation. "I definitely believe Evie has more money."
"Shut up doofus," Tangie said giving him a shove. TT pushed back and the chase was on.
"Hey guys no running through the hallways. If you break something it comes out of your allowance imaginary or not."
"Daddy what's a dofos?"
Yeah the Manning household was getting back to normal.