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.
Jay, I need you and KB to delve deeper into this story," Todd remarked to his attentive section editors.
The pitch meeting was wrapping up but they were still going over some last minute details regarding a particular front-page article.
Jay adjusted his glasses and remarked, "The fact that your sister is running a similar article this week..."
"Has nothing to do with it," Todd finished Jay's sentence in a matter-of-fact manner. "Vicki is going the conventional angle and we are who we are. Both of you know this...so no more harping about who was first to discover this article. This is what sells to an insatiable public and we are here to satisfy," he ended with a Cheshire grin.
Everyone in the meeting room murmured in agreement.
Todd clasped his hands together. "Ok guys so far so good but you know this work is far from over so let's get back to it."
Soon the shuffling of feet along with ongoing conversations and laughter permeated the air as the meeting's attendees began exiting. Jay was lingered a little while longer to mention, "Expect a visit," before trailing after the others.
Todd shrugged off the comment. He would deal with Vicki in his own special way when the time arose but for now he was having too much fun writing this exposé. There were just some days he enjoyed being the owner of The Sun. He was all too eager to get back to his desk when that familiar ringtone interrupted his intent.
"Hey Todd. I know what today is. You have a long workday ahead of you..."
"But that doesn't mean that I don't have time for lunch with my BF."
"Don't you mean your one and only."
"Evangeline you wound me besides we'll be hanging out in the Manning lion's den."
"Meaning that large, unimpressive office of yours," Evangeline giggled.
"My office is practical and functional. It's not like I'm inviting the who's who of Llanview for a visit." He heard her snickering. "I think I'll unfriend you today," he replied smiling.
"You can do that after we eat. I'll be over shortly."
Many people didn't know what to make of their friendship but the them it wasn't strange at all. All their combined experiences and shared emotional trials had forged a strong bond between them. They could easily say that they knew and understood more about each other than anyone else including family.
"I'll be keeping up my end of the deal therefore no interruptions from the ADA's office."
Evangeline sighed. "My schedule is cleared Todd Manning so don't get your boxers in a bunch. Check in with you real soon...byee."
"Bye..." A smile remained on his lips as he strolled over to his office.
Before reaching his office, he heard the dinging of the elevator bell and the doors opening.
"Todd!" The ominous yell of his sister halted his steps.
He spun around and facetiously said, "May I help you."
"The Henderson story has and will always be my story and for you to twist it into another one of your sensational headlines..."
"Vicki, you and I both know that every story has many different angles."
The office staff didn't stop and stare at this intense public dispute between brother and sister. Over the years, it had occurred often enough that everyone just kept on working. Disagreements between siblings, especially those in the newspaper business were bound to happen but at the end of the day, they were still family.
"This is a very serious topic Todd and I believe that you would only muddy the publics prospective on the matter."
"And why should that be my concern. Aren't we in the business to sell as many newspapers as possible? Heck the newspaper industry is becoming a dying breed. I serve at the will of the public."
"We all know who you want to cater to..."
"But it's still factual Vicki. The public will get all sides and they are smart enough to decide for themselves." Before Vicki could utter another rebuttal, Todd turned his head slightly to speak to his assistant, "Is everything prepared Tina?"
Tina quickly responded, "Yes Mr. Manning."
"Then hold all my calls and absolutely no interruptions for the next couple of hours except if its an emergency."
"Yes Mr. Manning."
"So are we finished?"
Vicki exhaled a frustrated sigh. She loathed when Todd reacted so flippantly to a serious issue between the two of them. "Sounds like lunch with your favorite friend," Vicki remarked with arms folded.
"Don't get jealous Vicki. You know I love you," he said with a wry smile stroking her arm.
"I get it Todd but you and I need to seriously talk about this."
"We can continue this conversation at a later time perhaps at the hospital's board meeting but I really do need to get into my office," he concluded and walked away.
She gazed intently at him until he entered his office. Indeed, she was a bit jealous of his relationship with Evangeline. After his divorce from Blair, she felt that their relationship would become stronger but instead he grew closer to Evangeline. From the outside looking in, they behaved like a couple but she knew they weren't...for the moment at least. They were more like the dynamic duo; if you slayed one you were sure to come up against the other. Anyways she hated to think about it otherwise. Blair still held her ear on certain matters but it became quite clear some time ago that Todd had effectively moved on. In fact, she had seen him out on few dates. Better to retreat for now, she had a deadline to meet as well.
"Oh Evangeline," Vicki exclaimed as she bumped into her on the way to the elevator.
Vicki always believed that Evangeline carried an air about her and today was no exception. Her tailored gray trouser paired well with a printed blouse and black blazer. The makeup was light with hair styled into a high ponytail. Stylish black shoes and tote bag completed the look.
"Sorry I didn't see you."
"It's alright Vicki."
Other than polite greetings, they rarely spoke for any length of time, which suited each just fine.
"Well I need to get going."
"Have a nice day Vicki," Evangeline said as she made her way over to Todd's assistant.
Lunch consisted of Panini sandwiches with soup and potato chips, a cola for Todd while Evangeline preferred her special blend ice tea.
"You are taking her side," an incredulous Todd quipped popping a potato chip into his mouth.
It became obvious to Evangeline why Vicki needed to visit Todd during such a busy time.
"I'm not taking any sides," Evangeline retorted. "Yet when I really think about it I'm usually on your side. In this case, however, I can see Vicki's point of view. You like to reign in on her spotlight..."
Todd placed his right hand over his heart and lifted his left palm. "I, Todd Manning, did not in any shape or fashion steal this storyline away from Vicki." Evangeline chuckled at this effort. "We both got the scoop therefore I won't apologize for going all in."
"I'm not asking you to apologize just see it from her prospective."
"Can we please leave this topic and agree to disagree. I've already received a tongue lashing from big sis and don't need you to join her parade especially over such a delicious lunch."
Evangeline shook her head pressing her lips together. "Ok..."
Both took bites into their last piece of sandwiches.
Evangeline took a sip of her tea. "How about this...I saw Meredith a little while ago and she was giving me the death stare..."
Todd started coughing. A concerned Evangeline vigorously patted his back. After taking a long swig of his soda, Todd cleared his throat. "Are you feeling alright now?"
"Then you may proceed with your explanation."
"There has and will never be anything serious going on between Meredith and I. Yes we were casually dating..."
"And we both know what that means..."
"May I continue...?" Evangeline rolled her eyes. "She expected me to flip the script. She wanted to meet the kids, visit Llanfair..."
Evangeline considered his words and said, "So that was the red flag."
"I explained it to her in a very calm fashion that I wasn't having it and our time together was officially over."
"And yet I end up getting the menacing looks."
Todd leaned their temples together. "It comes with being my friend."
"Sometimes I really worry about you Todd and the amount of women tracing in and out of your life."
"You mean bed right. Evangeline, are you calling me a man whore?" Todd gave her a knowing look.
"Todd come on... I'm really trying to be serious right now...please listen."
The lighthearted atmosphere had suddenly shifted.
"I am listening," he replied sincerely. He took her right hand into his; giving it a gentle squeeze and a soft kiss. "I know you worry about me... It makes me happy to have someone in my life who cares about my wellbeing other than Vicki."
"I will always want you to be happy."
"I feel the same way about you too. ...Aren't we a fine pair..."
"That we are...looking for love in all the wrong places but one day it will happen for both of us." Suddenly her eyes gazed up at the clock on the wall. "Looks like it's time for me to go. The stack of paperwork on my desk won't go away on its own and I'm certain that your staff is also anxiously waiting outside."
"That they are." He nodded. "I'll clean up here."
They both stood up and Todd walked with her towards the door.
"Remember we have that gym appointment this Friday evening."
"Vange sometimes you fuss over me like a mother hen..."
"And you like that way." She leaned in giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Yes I do," he said smiling.
These days Evangeline had been keeping him inline regarding his health. He was very grateful even if he had a few complaints.
"Take care of yourself."
"I'll call you later," he said to her as she exited.
Todd blew out a breath. He just needed a few moments alone and decided to flop down on the sofa. His mind kept racing between thoughts of his work responsibilities along with thoughts of his endearing best friend. Evangeline's crisp fragrance lingered in the air and he mentally retraced every detail of their time spent together. When had it all started? Did he choose to ignore what was developing below the surface? Admit it to yourself Todd.
"I can't...not right now. Our relationship is perfect. We talk. We laugh. We commiserate. I won't allow this perfect thing in my life to be torn apart by my selfish desires."
He quickly stood up, went over to his desk and placed a call. Time to get this day restarted.
Two months later...
It was early evening and Evangeline heard a persistent knocking at her apartment's front door.
"Who is it?"
What is she doing here? Evangeline questioned herself. "Coming..."
When she opened the door, the annoyance on Layla's face was in full display. "You forgot didn't you?"
"Forgot?" Immediately Evangeline smacked her forehead. "I was supposed to take..."
"Me over to Lani's tonight...How could I forget that you're probably hanging out with Todd."
Evangeline shrugged her shoulders. "Yeah...so."
"These days Todd takes up a lot of your free time."
"That's not true and you know that. Didn't we go out last weekend to Maxi's?" Evangeline folded her arms. "You just don't like Todd in my life."
"For good reason and I'd need a book to name them all but it's your life."
"Yes it is...so is there something else because..."
Layla stepped inside her personal space and calmly asked, "Does your bestie know that you are planning on moving back to Maryland?"
The question momentarily stunned her. She had been constructing ways in which to break the news to him. A part of her dreaded the conversation but it needed to take place.
"He will after tonight," she replied turning away from her.
"This will feel like a betrayal Vange. Who knows how he's going to react. He has pretty deep feelings for you."
Evangeline didn't want to hear it. She quickly turned around. "Look little sis you don't have a clue about Todd and his feelings," she said scathingly. "This night is going to be difficult enough. I don't need your additional critiques on the situation. "
Layla held up her palms.
"In many ways I'm so tired of Llanview. I've truly tried to make things work her but I just want to be selfish for once and have that life...marriage, kids. It's just not possible here anymore."
"I get it sis...I'm really going to miss you."
Evangeline pulled Layla into a hug. "I'm really going to miss you too."
"I can't believe it!" Todd balled up his right fist and punched the wall. For the moment, the wrenching pain didn't matter. The pain in one's heart can do that to you.
Evangeline's hands went to her face. "Todd!" A distress evident in her voice.
"I guess nothing matters anymore does it!" He immediately made a beeline into the kitchen.
When Evangeline called earlier and asked to come over and discuss something very important, he wasn't expecting her to say that she was leaving Llanview. Suddenly Todd felt his world crumbling all over again. One day everything is fine and the next chaos ensues. He would forever pay for his past sins.
"We will discuss this Todd!" Evangeline yelled trailing after him.
"What is there to discuss. You've already made your plans pretty clear darling."
He grabbed a beer from the fridge, pulled off the cap and took a long swig. He couldn't help but stare longingly at the beautiful, assertive woman standing before him. From her features to her clothes, he adored her beyond reason.
"Damnit Evangeline did I do something?" He questioned setting the bottle down heavy on the kitchen island. "Whatever I've done just tell me and we can fix this. Friends work out these issues between them. Then again, is there something else going on that you can't share with me. I'll take care of it. Next to my kids, your friendship means more to me than anything."
"And it doesn't mean any less to me. Why does it have to be all or nothing with you?" Todd shifted his gaze. "Look at me..."
"How long have you been thinking about this? Was it after your breakup with that creep Davidson?"
"You're not listening to me! Todd stop!"
Evangeline clenched her fists. She briefly closed her eyes taking in deep breaths. There were few times that Todd could remember when Evangeline reacted like this.
He took another swallow of his beer. "Ok talk...I promise to keep my mouth shut."
"Life is slowly passing me by...Although I have a great career, good friends - I want more. Happiness for me includes getting married and starting a family..."
The revelation rendered him speechless. For a person who claims to be her best friend, he didn't have a clue about what she truly wanted in her life.
He leaned forward and softly said, "You have me..."
"Of course I have you..."
"You never thought about it. The possibility of us?"
Evangeline sucked in a breath. The question caught her off guard. "Don't..."
"Why not? I'm willing to lay my heart on the table here and now. I don't care anymore. After this you may still walk away but at least I gave it my best shot."
Evangeline's heart began pacing. The way Todd's blue eyes stared into hers was sending shockwaves throughout her body. Could this really be happening? Had she ever really thought about it? Maybe a time or two ago but he appeared very dedicated to Blair and then his new life of being a good parent and taking care of his business. A true, long-lasting relationship were the furthest thing from his mind, well at least she thought so.
She flinched a little when he reached over to her placing both palms on her cheeks. Subsequently he closed his eyes pressing their foreheads together. His cool breath caressed her skin.
"I...love...you." He made it a point to emphasize every word. "I...need...you...in my life. Don't leave me like this. Don't...ever...leave...me." His last words laced with immense sadness and trepidation.
At first, she was at a lost. Never having heard a man desire or want her this much. Moreover, to believe this passionate proclamation was coming from her best friend. It blew her mind but then it brought those dormant feelings back to the surface.
"I...I..." No, she shouldn't be afraid. That passionate expression of love may have let her down in the past but not anymore. "I love you too."
She lifted her hands to his face quickly pulling him into a searing kiss. It was as if a dam broke and all their pent up emotions were spilling over evidence by their insistent lips. Their tongues delved inside sucking hard, savoring each other's taste. A warmth spread over them drawing their bodies closer. Eventually their lips parted. They held each other close while taking in shallow breaths.
"Wow...that was some kiss."
"Yeah...took you long enough," Evangeline said teasingly.
"Me?" Todd chuckled at her playful accusation.
Evangeline lifted her head giving him a perplexed look. "What were you afraid of?" she asked stroking his hair. "I've never known you to be afraid of anything..."
"I've always felt unworthy of you. My past misdeeds... You see the type of women I attract...they are not you."
She interjected, "My history with men hasn't been a bowl of cherries either..."
"Those bastards didn't know what they had but I've always known." He took her hands into his. "Sweetheart you are the most beautiful, intelligent woman I've ever met. You being in my life makes an otherwise dull existence so complete..." He reflected briefly then carefully kissed each hand. "Marry me..."
Evangeline couldn't believe her ears. A stunned Evangeline asked, "So this is your proposal? Just like that?"
"What more do we have left to prove. I could get down on one knee..."
"Just shut up Manning. Yes! Yes!"
They shared another passionate kiss as he lifted her in the air.
"Baby you've made me so happy," she said with tears in her eyes.
He eased her back down and wiped away her tears. Afterwards he trailed his index finger alongside her face.
"And there is so much more I want to give you...a home...We'll have that family. I promise to always support you and take care for your needs. No matter the circumstances, I will fight for us till the bitter end. I'll never forsake you... "
She jokingly said, "Baby, sounds like you're already working on those vows..."
"My love, this will happen tonight."
"Tonight? Manning you are certainly full of surprises."
"I hope that's a good thing," he said smiling. They kept a constant gaze on each other. "When I make love to you tonight, you'll be my wife...Mrs. Evangeline Manning."
"I love the sound of that." She gave him a soft kiss. "Leave nothing to chance huh Manning," she whispered while angling her arms around his neck.
"Never again," he replied recapturing her lips.
Who knows when I may pop up again with another one of these stories but as long as people are interested then it will happen...eventually :)