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.
It's the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It's the most wonderful time of the year
Victor captured Kodak moments throughout their time at Angel Park. The snow lightly falling created some great portraits. They went sledding down a small mound, and built a snowman in between; adorning it with gummies, lollipops, and licorice. Victor even commissioned one of the park's artists to paint a couple of scenes with the three of them enjoying their time at the park.
"Hey!" Victor had just gotten off his phone when a snowball hit him square in the face. He wasn't too sure who did it because Evangeline and Sam pretended to be otherwise engaged. "So, nobody wants to fess up, huh." He formed two good-sized snowballs. Evangeline and Sam scattered in different directions trying to outrun the snowballs coming their way.
That continued for a while until Evangeline decided to take a break. She took a seat on one of the park's benches and thought, either I'm too old for this or exhaustion was finally taking over after her flight from Washington. She still heard Victor and Sam playing not too far off in the distance.
Then another sound suddenly caught her attention. The voices and the laughter seemed familiar. There was no mistaking who these two were. They strolled by hand in hand, oblivious to anything or anyone else around them. Sure, she would have been a fool to believe that she wouldn't have bumped into them during her stay, but the sight of them became another reminder that Llanview represented a place of lost hope and dreams.
"What's wrong?" Victor sat down next to her with Sam on his lap. "I thought I lost you there for a moment."
She felt cold, exhausted. "I guess I'm finally feeling tired."
"And it is getting colder. I think it is time to go home. We had a lot of fun today; right, Sam."
"Yeah, dad. Did you have fun, Evangeline?"
"Yes, I had a great time," she said and fashioned a smile.
"You know what I'm thinking?"
"I'll make you some hot chocolate with whip cream. How does that sound?"
Victor lifted Sam upon his shoulder, then offered his arm to Evangeline. The three of them strolled quietly to the awaiting car.
Upon arrival at the penthouse, jackets, hats, gloves, and boots, were placed in the hallway closet. Sam waited downstairs, and Victor took Evangeline's bag up to the spacious guestroom. When he opened the door, Evangeline's eyes gazed around, taking it all in. There was a style about the room. The room's features included a closet, dresser, desk, comfortable chair, and a detached bathroom.
Jasmine-scented candles and a vase of magnolias on the dresser indulged the senses. At the left-hand corner of the room stood a small decorated Christmas tree with colorful mini gift boxes displayed underneath. A crystal chandelier hung from the center of the high ceiling. Evangeline's eyes began focusing on the king-size bed draped with holiday-themed fleece bedding and six memory foam pillows lined up in three different rows.
"How do you like the room?"
"I like it a lot."
She quickly jumped into bed and went into a doze. Victor couldn't believe it or maybe he could. Quietly he positioned her beneath the covers and kissed her on the cheek. He gazed down at her with a concerned look, stroking the back of her hair then the side of her face."What's wrong, Sweetheart? What is it that you're not telling me?"
Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
Through the fields we go
Laughing all the way.
Bells on bob-tail ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight.
Evangeline slept long enough to feel rested. She showered and spruced up just in time for dinner. By the time she made her appearance in the contemporary dining room, it seemed that Victor and Sam were awaiting her arrival. Dinnerware, cutlery, glasses, and folded napkins lay neatly while the food remained hidden beneath a silver cloche.
"You're finally awake, sleeping beauty."
"Well, a lady does need her beauty rest."
Victor pulled out her seat. "You do look lovely this evening."
She wore a grey sweater, jeans, and hair in her natural curls with just a little lip balm.
"Thank you. I hope I didn't have you gentlemen waiting for me too long."
"Just a teeny bit," said Victor demonstrating with his thumb and index finger.
Evangeline smirked. "So, what's for dinner?"
"Voila!" Victor announced as he lifted the cloche. "Roast leg of lamb, potatoes, and carrots for us while Sam will chow down on mini chicken pot pies."
"Hmm...looks and smells scrumptious," she said as the savory smell wafted through the air.
"After dinner, we'll watch a movie..."
"A Christmas story," Sam interjected. "With popcorn."
"Yes, and yes."
"Daddy, we can also show Evangeline the Christmas tree."
Victor smacked his forehead. "Of course. How could I have forgotten?" then he winked at Evangeline, who smiled.
"Are your eyes closed?"
Evangeline nodded as Victor and Sam led her towards the living room.
"You can open them now."
Evangeline's eyes sprang open to a spectacular scene. "Oh, wow...wow." Her eyes took in the scene. "This is pretty awesome!"
The lights from the Fraser fir Christmas tree twinkled and illuminated the semi-darkened room. The tree was decked out with gold, green, and red decorations of garlands, ornaments, baubles, tinsels, and crystal angels. A bright, gold star fitted prominently atop the nine-foot tree. An array of presents lay neatly beneath its garlanded branches. The Llanview skyline provided a stunning backdrop.
"This is one of the most amazing trees I've ever seen. And the two of you decorated this all by yourselves? Bravo!" Evangeline began clapping.
Victor instantly swooped up Sam and started tickling him. "Don't give away our secrets," said Victor as Sam squealed with laughter.
"I believe I already figured out the secret," she teased. "Regardless, it's still a wonderful surprise. I love it!"
Victor turned on the lights and said, "Then, you'll also love this."
He presented her with a personalized glass bauble. On the inside, a tiny crystal Christmas tree sparkled; while on the outside, her first name was printed out in gold lettering.
Her mouth hung slightly open. "This is sooo beautiful." She could barely take her eyes off it.
"You can place it anywhere on the tree."
She fixed it right next to a couple of personalized baubles that featured Victor and Sam's names.
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
All three huddled together underneath a woolen blanket on the sectional sofa watching the movie. Before the hour chimed eight o'clock, Sam fell asleep, and Victor took him upstairs to bed. Evangeline patiently waited for his return and continued munching on some of the buttery popcorn.
"Are you and Jack still talking?" said Evangeline immediately after he rejoined her on the sofa. "I expected to run into him sooner or later."
"He's actually in Colorado, skiing with friends. Todd and Blair's Christmas gift. He seems to be having a good time."
"That's good news. ...Sooo...tell me about your novel."
"There isn't that much to say. It's a fictional, mystery novel that has been tumbling over in my brain for quite some time. So far, the publisher approves of my first draft, but I continue to do some fine-tuning. It doesn't even have a definitive title as yet." Evangeline gazed at him a little surprised. "I hope you didn't think I was writing about the hidden secret lives of Llanview's elite."
"Don't worry, that will come later." Evangeline threw a pillow at him. "What...I'm just kidding."
"Why don't I believe you? Hopefully, you'll allow me to read a copy before it hits the big time."
Victor chuckled at that generous supposition. "You'll receive the first copy."
Rather suddenly, Victor switched off the television and turned off the music.
"Hey, the movie isn't over as yet."
Victor sighed. "We need to talk, Evangeline."
"Okay," she said, turning to face him. "Go on. I'm always here to listen." The look in his eyes unsettled her a little.
"It's not about me...it's about you."
Evangeline moved back slightly with a confused look in her eyes. "What about me?"
"Evangeline, tell me, what's going on? You're keeping something hidden from me. Talk to me," he stressed, caressing her cheek.
She brushed his hand away. "Don't..."
He instantly stirred an unwelcome set of emotions within her. Her mind started thinking of what to do next.
"Evangeline, don't shut me out."
"There's nothing to tell, Victor," she sneered at him.
"Don't lie to me, Evangeline. Don't lie to yourself. Am I not capable of listening? Am I not your best friend?" He reached for her hands. "I can't count the number of times you have sacrificed to be there for me in my darkest moments. Let me do the same for you now in a small way." He gently lifted her chin. "Sweetheart, talk to me."
She softly said, "I don't want to. What's the point?"
Maybe he was right, and she didn't believe him capable. Within those chocolate, brown eyes, the heartache started to unveil itself.
"One day, all those emotions will come bursting out if you keep things bottled up inside. Then you will not only hurt yourself but those you care about the most. Remember, you taught me that."
She finally blurted out. "Everything was fine in Washington until I got back here!"
She leaned her head back and stared up at the vaulted ceiling. Except for the crackling fire, an eerie silence filled the room. That statement jolted him, but he quietly waited on her to speak again.
She lowered her gaze, linking her eyes with his. "When you look at me, what do you see?"
"Strength, beauty, confidence, able to take on anything that comes," he stated without hesitancy.
"I am all those things, and yet I'm not. ...My friend, let me enlighten you. Llanview makes me feel weak, fragile, and powerless. My relationships have failed, not to mention my private practice. I cannot succeed here. I've been kidnapped, blinded, and languished in a coma for many months. I can count on my one hand the friends who have been there through the struggle."
Her revelations shocked him. How could he have not known how much she was hurting, or maybe he was too wrapped up in his selfish needs to care. Either she kept things hidden well, or he couldn't see through his haze.
" In Llanview, I play my role too well. So much so that I've been stereotyped. You once told me, I care too much. I do care. I tried to be everything to everybody else and forgot about myself in the process. ...People don't see me, and I don't think they want to. They see who they want to see."
"I'm glad I got out of here even if it meant leaving behind the people I care about the most. I needed to rejoin the land of the living because I was becoming dead inside. I found it difficult to stop the darkness from overtaking my soul. There were too many unpleasant reminders surrounding me."
Her hands instantly covered her face. Victor pulled her into a tight, comforting embrace. It was all he could think to do.
"Forgive me for not reaching out to you earlier," said Victor while kissing her forehead. "I'm so so sorry. I shouldn't have asked you to come."
She softly replied, "It's not your fault. Not until today, did I realize, how much I was holding on to the past. I tried so hard..."
"Sweetheart, let it out. You don't need to be strong for me, just let it out."
She finally let it out. Her body began shaking, uncontrollable tears streaming down her face. She kept up a brave face for far too long. Holding it together like the "perfect" daughter, sister, and friend would. After all, everyone came to her for advice, comfort, and a shoulder to lean on.
Victor's heart broke for her. His eyes glistened with unshed tears.
"Whatever you need, as long as I'm able, I will always be here for you."