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.
Walking along with Victor, one thing became abundantly clear to Evangeline, they were at different stages in life. No longer were they simply Evangeline Williamson and Todd Manning, an odd, intense friendship carved out of a lawyer wanting to do her utmost to save her innocent client. To the outside world it was highly irregular to say the least yet for a long time it worked for them.
Periodically they found themselves starting at each other. They hadn't been around each other like this for quite a while now. Who knew what to expect.
Another admirer of her performance approached expressing complimentary words and of course, Evangeline obliged with that signature smile. This night turned out better than expected and she appreciated people coming up to her. Not only did it mean that she had opened people's hearts but also their checkbooks. Victor stood back taking it all in. Evangeline's personality and way about her always drew people in. He became leery however, of those men whose eyes lingered. From the time he knew her, Evangeline was oblivious of the attention she drew from the opposite sex.
Soon they stood outside waiting for the valet to bring around Victor's Black Range Rover. There was a chill in the air. Evangeline rubbed along her forearms and Victor quickly surrendered his jacket.
"Thanks...where are taking me?"
"I hope you don't mind...Country club cuisine is not my style. I'm thinking about Slim's drive thru..."
Evangeline smiled. "Yeah I can go for a burger and fries..."
She recalled those moments when the two of them would just go out and grab some fast food; eating and talking about every and anything for hours at a time.
"My place and I promise not to keep you too long."
His place. Humph it would be interesting to see how it compares to the penthouse. "I hope you have
hidden all your humph... unmentionables."
Victor couldn't help but chuckle, "Are you really accusing me of being a slacker?"
That question hung in the air as the valet arrived with his vehicle and soon they were off.
Half an hour later with burgers and fries, in hand they were on their way to the next destination.
"Hey you were totally amazing tonight."
"Why thank you Mr. Lord especially for joining the list of my adoring fans."
He thought Evangeline was being rather comical and decided to play along. "So when is the tour?"
"North America or Europe."
They both started laughing then Victor swiped one of her fries.
"Hey you've got your own."
"Yours taste much, much better."
This felt very familiar. Almost as if nothing had changed between them. The lighthearted banter a part of what he enjoyed about their friendship but he realized that as the night progressed their conversation would inevitably turn serious veering into the topic that couldn't be avoided.
Evangeline's cellphone went off and when she retrieved it, she saw that it was her mom calling.
"Hey mom...everything ok?"
"Hey baby, Trey insisted on saying goodnight to you."
"Mommy you coming home?"
"Soon baby. In the meantime Grammie is there to tuck you in until I come."
"Ok," he replied yawning.
These days, Evangeline rarely stayed out this late and hearing her son plea for her to come home touched her heart.
"I promise baby that mommy will be home shortly..."
As Evangeline continued to talk, Victor continued the drive a little disappointed that he needed to take her home but he understood. Being a parent especially a single parent had its share of responsibilities. It made him remember that for eight years he carried those same set of responsibilities but Victor Lord wasn't a parent anymore. The one child, his son with Margaret was lost forever. A very sad thing to think about and he tried his best not to.
After a few minutes, the conversation ended.
"There's no need for you to apologize. Trey is your first priority. He would be mine too."
She remembered as well and the earlier playful atmosphere had turned making the ride to her condo pretty quiet. They were both lost in their own thoughts until they reached the parking garage.
"Well we can reschedule..."
"Victor we can still talk...we need to. Come on up."
Her invitation surprised him but he dutifully followed carrying along their fare. The strong scent from the burgers permeated the air but their appetites had since waned. His emotions ran between a mixture of joy and apprehensiveness. He barely had time to survey her condominium when she commented,
"You can wait out on the terrace and I'll join you as soon as I've checked in on Trey and change ok."
"Ok," came his abrupt reply.
He regarded her until she disappeared around a corner. Thereafter, he stood frozen briefly taking in the features of her spacious living room. Multicolored walls; the standard furnishings included a sectional paired with an ottoman, rug, fireplace, wall-mounted tv yet his eyes fixated on the prominent family portrait. The framed photograph captured the image of a happy family Robert, Evangeline gazing lovingly at little Trey who was cradled in her arms. What he wouldn't give to have that. His blue eyes stayed on that image for a few moments before he decided to go out unto the terrace.
The terrace featured a small, sectional chair as well as an armchair with matching coffee table that displayed a simple candle arrangement. Retractable glass surrounded it keeping the elements at bay but it still provided great views of the Llanview skyline. Setting aside a cushion, he propped down in the armchair, placed the burgers and fries on the table and leaned back staring off into the night. He barely heard the sounds from the traffic down below. The view made him relax a little. That earlier confidence had left him. He repeatedly rehearsed what he was going to say but knew it had to come from the heart.
He didn't want to come off as cocky or insincere. Evangeline would see right through him and call him on it.
"Victor..." She suddenly appeared dressed in a black loungewear tee and pants; hair gathered into a ponytail. She chose to take a seat in the sectional, closely hugging on of its cushions. No doubt about it, Evangeline's beauty always radiated even in the most casual setting.
Victor cleared his throat. "So how is Trey?"
"Thankfully fast asleep. My mother is with him. ...Look, before you go into your "speech"; it's obvious that we are different people now, at different places in our lives. Our priorities have changed. There was once a time when either of us would drop anything in order to be there for the other person but of course that's not possible now."
Her words struck him very deeply and he swallowed. Whatever he rehearsed went out the window. Evangeline laid down the terms of their conversation before he had a chance to speak.
"Are you saying that our friendship is irrevocably broken?" The words scared him but he needed to know.
"That's not what I'm saying...it just can't be what it was...that's all."
"Evangeline I recognize that I'm to blame for where we are now. I was spiraling out of control; drinking, pushing everyone who cared away. I didn't understand who I was anymore. The life that I knew and held unto with every fiber of my being was forever lost to me and I rejected you..." He paused thinking about that horrible day - hard to escape from the impact his choice created. "I'm really, truly sorry. It's hard to accept that your life was a total lie..."
"But our friendship wasn't a lie."
He put his head down. "No it wasn't."
"I hate thinking about that day because there was nothing good in it. All I wanted to do was to be there like we have always done for each other."
"I know that now."
"I thought this is how Blair must have felt." Evangeline scoffed at the thought. "Would you believe Blair of all people...I need actions Victor not just words." Victor finally looked up and gazed at her with a solemn stare. "You think I was going to make this easy on you. Just throw me an apology and all will be forgiven?"
"Believe it or not, I expected the battle."
"I don't want to fight you." She took in a deep breath. "From the time I've known you, you've made everything so difficult..."
"Do you want me gone?" He hoped the answer was no. She was still his only friend. What would he do if he lost her friendship forever?
"Everything so damn dramatic." She sighed heavily. "If I wanted you gone then I wouldn't have accepted your invitation to talk now would I? What I want is..."
"An appreciation of our friendship and how much it means to me. I'll show you," he said joining her. He took her left hand into his softly massaging its palm with his thumb. "Only if you'll let me..."
Her mouth curved into a small smile. "You know I will but don't...I'm all for second chances but don't you dare waste this opportunity."
He felt a weight being lifted. "I won't. I promise." He pulled her into his arms, kissing the top of her head. "I've missed being around you so much."
"I've missed you too."
They laughed when her stomach started to growl. She covered her face from embarrassment.
"The food is cold but I'll bet it still tastes good."
"I'm too hungry to care."
By the time they had finished eating, Evangeline's bare feet lay stretched out on his lap. His left hand lay on the arm of the chair with his cheek pressed hard against his right.
"I wouldn't know how I would have dealt with that news," she remarked with concern.
"At first I wanted to crawl into the ground and disappear."
"And now how is it being Victor Lord Jr.?"
"A new beginning. A work in progress. All of the above...I'm reshaping a whole new existence. It should be easy by now..."
"But it isn't?"
"No it's not. I can't shake off or be rid of those memories as Todd Manning. Heck I don't even remember my life before as Victor."
"You need to talk to someone."
"I'm talking to you."
"I can only do so much."
"Believe me sitting here right now with you, is doing a great deal." He gazed at her with so much emotion.
Evangeline reached out and caressed the side of his face. He held it there. "Then I'm glad..." She started yawning. "Sorry..."
"Don't be. I think it's time for me to leave...the superstar needs her beauty sleep."
Evangeline lightly smacked his arm. "I'll walk you out."
"In a couple of days I'm going house hunting. I would really appreciate if you would join me then we can have lunch afterwards."
"Sounds like a plan."
He leaned in, kissed her forehead and embraced her warmly. "Thanks for giving our friendship another chance."
She joked, "You're lucky I didn't have you on your knees groveling."
"Would have done that too. Whatever it takes to have you back in my life. I'll call you."
"And I'll be sure to answer."
Just the beginning he felt and was certain there would be more to come. Again he gazed at the portrait...More to come.