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.
"What am I to you? Am I your wife or just your best friend?"
Evangeline's last statement stung and it kept replaying like a broken record through his thoughts. How could she say that? He questioned out loud. Of course she meant everything to him especially now. Wife? Best friend? He understood the difference as well as her implication. In his heart their home, family, future was most important. Evangeline wasn't just a support system when he ran into trouble or a shoulder to lean on when times got rough. For far too many years and seemingly endless obstacles, she remained by his side, becoming a light to the darkness surrounding him. Her presence alone brighten his day. Well maybe she has grown tired of always having to stand on the sidelines while he worked his way through another unpredictable complication. She was probably thinking she made a colossal mistake in marrying him - he prayed not. The negative thoughts kept coming as he sat by the window, hands clasped together.
"Victor," he admonished himself. It was no use putting his mind through the ringer when things needed to get done. He quickly rose from his seat and picked up his phone.
An hour went by during which he met with this staff plotting out a schedule unsure of his return. In the meantime Elliot, his managing editor, would be left in charge. Soon after he placed a call to Paul.
"Is the jet ready?"
"Almost Mr. Lord. I've also contacted Davis to get the ball rolling."
"Are you sure he'll be able to get access to New Beginnings. I don't want us wasting time and spinning our wheels. Time is not a luxury for me Paul. I've got my wife, son and a new home besides Christmas is just around the corner. There's no way I'm going to be spending a significant time away like what happened in Chicago."
"I understand Mr. Lord. Davis knows his way around and you'll be getting an update in a day or two."
"Good. And what about the lawyer?"
"As soon as we land, a meeting has already been scheduled."
"Okay. I'll see you in a little while."
He had already gone to the penthouse and packed a few things. Again he attempted to reach Evangeline but her phone kept going to voicemail. He finally got the message - his wife wanted to be left alone. If he wanted to, he would go look for her but he knew she needed space. In her mind he was choosing a son he has never seen or met over her and Trey which was far from the truth. It made him worry that if it were all in vain, their marriage would forever be changed and not for the better.
Walking up the driveway to the Hughes suddenly created an uneasy feeling. He definitely expected a showdown with Lisa especially for abandoning his family at such a critical moment to chase a ghost. He would try his best to explain his side even if it didn't go over well. Her mother already had a keen eye on him and this bit of news was sure to send their shaky truce over the edge.
He rang the door bell and after a minute or so was surprised to see Uncle Clay answer. It was sort of a relief to see him standing there with a perplexed look on his face.
"Hey Victor. Strange seeing you here. Evangeline told us you had to go on an emergency trip."
"That's true but I couldn't leave without saying goodbye to Trey and giving him a gift." Uncle Clay looked down at the gift bag dangling in his hand. "By the way where is he?"
"In the back...I'll go get him."
He removed his scarf and stood wondering just how much Evangeline had told her family about his trip. The house appeared eerily quiet. He had expected Lisa to be up in his face.
"By the way the ladies left for some impromptu shopping or spa trip - not sure which one. A day without men type of deal," Uncle Clay said chuckling as he left but Victor wasn't laughing. A sense of foreboding came over him.
"Daddy Victor." Trey came rushing out and leaped into his arms. Victor dropped the bag giving him the longest embrace. "Mommy say you go away."
"Yes but I needed to see you first before I go. I can't leave my little boy without saying goodbye. I'm going to miss you a whole lot."
"Me too," he remarked sadly. "Why you go?"
Trey's words melted his heart. Why didn't this happen before he was married. "Daddy needs to do something very important but I promise to talk to you and mommy everyday. I'll never be too far away."
"Okay." Trey kept his head down, tiny hands tapping his shirt.
This was going to be more difficult than he thought. He kissed his forehead. "I brought you a present."
Trey eyes brightened. "What is it?"
Victor lowered him to the ground then opened the bag. "Plane!" Trey yelled before Victor could speak.
"Uncle Clay will help you put it together. I also have a book for us to read."
As soon as Trey saw the picture on the cover he yelled, "Paddy!" The title of the book was a Bear called Paddington. Trey rushed out of the room.
"Where is he going?"
"Probably to get Paddington."
Uncle Clay's observation proved correct because shortly thereafter Trey came back with Paddington in his arms. "We're ready..." Looks like it was time to read to his little guys.
After leaving the house, the ladies went on a brief shopping trip before deciding to go to Trends an upscale eatery just a couple of blocks away from downtown Llanview. Trends featured private dining rooms apart from the main restaurant seating of which they were able to secure their own. The room was cozy enough with scenic view and modern decor. The ladies mood however didn't quite match the surroundings.
Lisa remarked, "I can't believe my two daughters are experiencing husband troubles at the same time." The way she said it came off sarcastic.
Evangeline immediately defended. "Mom its not like that. Marriages go through these things every now and then."
"Oh it isn't Evangeline?" Lisa cocked an eyebrow. "Your new husband goes off on a mysterious trip. You however are unwilling to share the details although anyone can clearly see that its upsetting - not answering your phone, hanging out with us instead of working on your new home says a lot."
"Okay this emergency trip isn't making me particularly happy but I just need to cool off."
"Strange that Victor would leave his family at such an important time but a man's gotta do what he must." Evangeline rolled her eyes not wanting to say anything further. "As for my heavily pregnant baby girl..."
Layla cut her off. "Mom Hugh was out of line. Just because Paige wants to have a greater presence in his life doesn't mean that she gets to have ringside seats during my labor and delivery. How would his mom feel about that and me the person in excruciating pain..."
Lisa and Evangeline shared a look. It wasn't exactly the way Layla recalled. Hugh was explaining that Paige requested if she could visit the baby after its birth. It seemed like a reasonable request in his opinion. Well things went from there. Eventually it turned out to be a one-sided argument because Hugh chose to walk away before things got out of hand and his wife went into premature labor. Lisa was able to calm her down.
"Alright I get the point. I don't want you getting stressed again," said Lisa while rising from her seat.
"Mom where are going?"
"I need to go to the ladies room. I'll be back soon enough. I wonder if I'll be able to find it through all this fanciness."
"Second marriage and I haven't experienced that six month honeymoon phase." She grabbed her glass of water and took a sip.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"I can't share it with you. Number one - I don't want you to worry since you have your own issues and most importantly I don't want mom bugging you for answers. Just know that whatever happens its going to be life-changing for my family."
"Oh..." Layla looked down and massaged her belly.
"You know you need to make up with Hugh right?"
"Why? It's his fault." Layla said perturbed.
"Sis he didn't mean to upset you. Besides there is no way in the world he would allow Paige inside that delivery room."
Layla sat quietly thinking about everything.
"Yeah...sitting here and thinking about it does make me realize just how awful I behaved. He probably doesn't want to talk to me right now."
"I believe he does," Evangeline smiled rising from her seat.
"Now where are you going?"
"Just hold tight."
Layla wasn't quite sure what her mom and sister were doing. She figured they were up to something though.
"Hugh?" Layla asked pleasantly surprised.
Hugh stood by the doorway smiling sheepishly with a bunch of red roses within his grasp. "Honey I'm sorry. I shouldn't have walked out on you and the baby like that...lesson learned."
With tears in her eyes Layla said, "I'm the one who's sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you..."
"You're pregnant...it happens."
Layla giggled while wiping away her tears. "I'll remember that statement."
Hugh went over to her side and gave her the flowers which she happily accepted. "He leaned in for a sweet kiss. "I love you."
"I love you too," Layla said then kissed him again. "I guess we have the room to ourselves. My family did good. This is wonderful." She set the roses aside then held his hands and stared into his eyes. "Let's not never ever fight again."
"Well at least until after the baby is born." The two shared a laugh which turned into another kiss.
Lisa and Evangeline peaked at them by the doorway.
"I believe these lovebirds need some alone time."
"Yeah they deserve it. We did good."
Seeing her sister happy took away some of the sadness at least for the moment.
Well hello Mr. Manning,
The fact that you are reading this letter means that I've been deceased for quite a while. Still I want you to know that I enjoyed your misery greatly - believing your son dead and having such a special memorial service...I imagined the sad faces, the sweet sentiments and especially your heart wrenching grief of losing a son you never knew. Don't get too upset am I not sadistic - taking great pleasure in causing you pain.
By now I had expected you to have torn up this letter but it seems you have some brain cells after all. Life is full of surprises so let's make things clear for you. That son you buried at St. James has been neatly tucked away in a foster care in Houston for quite a while now. A son does need his father even if its you. I think its time for a family reunion - don't you. Consider it a gift from the bottom of my black heart. Here is to New Beginnings - by the way that's the name of the foster home if you couldn't figure it out.
Victor had given Paul the letter to read and analyse.
"So what do you think of my nemesis?"
"He's a piece of work. I would have torn this letter to pieces. Clearly this guy has it out for you from the beginning."
"Oh he's gotten me good even from the grave. Here I am flying thousands of miles away from my wife and our son..." Victor closed his eyes letting out a frustrating sigh.
Sitting across from Victor, Paul witnessed the internal struggle weighing heavily on him. For so many months he was completely lost; going through the motions of day to day living. Then Evangeline and Trey came along and brought back that spark.
"She still hasn't answered?"
"Time after time it's always me...me...me. My life, my demons..."
"This is different though. You can't keep knocking yourself..."
"What if its all in vain huh? How can I go back to Evangeline with my tail between my legs. She'll never trust me again because it is different this time around - I'm her husband not just her best friend."
Paul contemplated his words. It seemed weird that Victor would go into such detail about his troubles. The struggle was real and Victor was hurting. His ringing phone broke the awkward silence. It was Davis checking in.
"You go ahead. I'll get the specifics once you're finished."