Hello, It’s Me
He knew she’d entered the Angel Square Diner long before he saw her. He sensed her.
John looked over to Evangeline as she walked to the counter. She wore a hooded black mid-length pea coat, dark blue jeans, and black heeled boots. Outside, snow was falling and he watched her take a moment to brush snowflakes from her coat. He remembered how she loved the snow especially during the holiday season. A year ago at this time, they were in bed together. They stayed in bed all morning and afternoon, talking, laughing, and loving. Time had definitely brought about a change.
Evangeline removed her hood and John watched mesmerized as she shook her shiny black mane. Did he ever tell her how sexy he thought the seemingly innocent move was? There was so much he never told her. So much he had built up inside that he wanted to share, but for one reason or another, never did. He was instantly reminded of how much he missed her.
Evangeline was standing at the counter alone. He could still wish her a Merry Christmas, couldn’t he?
She saw him and smiled. "Hey John."
John smiled back warmly. "So, what brings you to Carlotta’s bright and early on Christmas Eve?"
He was hoping she’d buy into his attempt at small talk. Two weeks ago, they had the best non-work related conversation they’d had in almost a year at the annual Love Center Christmas Party. That conversation only left him wanting more – much more.
"Well, I could ask you the same thing, Lieutenant," she answered.
John smirked sheepishly.
"But to answer your question, I’m here picking up some breakfast. I’m not the best cook, ya know?"
John laughed. "Not the best cook? Well that’s certainly putting it lightly."
She playfully jabbed his arm. "Okay McBain, that’s enough ragging on my cooking skills. Luckily, Kevin doesn’t know his way around the kitchen either."
Kevin Buchanan. Evangeline would have to bring his name up, John thought to himself.
"I’m surprised you’re not having breakfast at Llanfair. You know, eggs benedict and crepes, or something sophisticated like that," John quipped.
Evangeline chuckled at the ribbing. "Actually, he’s over there right now. He wanted to see Viki before leaving for Pittsburgh with Governor Brooks."
"He’s leaving you alone on Christmas Eve?"
She gave John a quizzical look before responding. "Don’t worry, he’ll be back early tomorrow morning. Tonight, I’m hanging with Layla, Antonio, and Jamie. What about you?"
"Well, I don’t have any plans, but I certainly wouldn’t leave you alone on Christmas Eve. I think I’d try to get out of it any way I could."
Evangeline gave a sarcastic snicker, putting up her hand to stop him. "Don’t even go there with me John because there were a lot of things you said you’d ‘try’ to do for me. If we were still together, my guess is that you’d still be ‘trying’ and I’d still be waiting."
John reached for her hand. "Evangeline, I’m sorry for the way things turned out with us. If I could change it…"
"Don’t worry about it," she said, tugging free. "Things happened that way for a reason, right?"
There it was. John saw it – that glimmer of hope he’d so often hoped for. The look in Evangeline’s eyes told him that she wished things had ended differently, more importantly that things hadn’t ended at all.
"Here’s your order, Evangeline. Sorry about the wait," the waitress interrupted.
Evangeline thanked her and paid the bill. Then she pulled her hood back on and turned to leave.
"Happy Holidays, Evangeline," John said.
"Same to you," she replied and hurried out.
Seeing Evangeline, John made a promise to himself. He was going to get her back. He knew it wouldn’t be easy but he was in love with her, just as he’d always been but never said. She needed to hear it and he was ready to say it. The question was would she be willing to listen?
Later that afternoon, with his mind made up, John decided to enlist some help. He knew exactly whom to ask.
"Hey, you got a minute?
"John, what are you doing here?"
"I need you to do something for me."
Layla Williamson laughed sardonically as John McBain stood at her front door. Had he lost his mind?
"Now why in the world do you think I’d help the man who broke my big sister’s heart? You do remember doing that don’t you? Parading Natalie Vega around town…"
"Are you gonna invite me in or are we gonna have this conversation while I stand out here in the hallway?"
"That depends. What do you want?" Layla fired back.
"I want Evangeline. I want to get her back."
Layla smiled, suddenly intrigued. "Well, now this does sound interesting. However, you do know that Evangeline’s with Kevin Buchanan now. What makes you think she’ll even consider giving you yet another chance?"
"Look Layla, I saw her this morning. She wasn’t with Kevin. When we talked, I could tell that she has feelings for me. I know I still have them for her."
"Yeah, John. Everyone knows you still have feelings for her. The question is what kind?"
"I love her, Layla. I intend to tell her that. Will you help me?"
Layla grinned enthusiastically and opened her apartment door. "Step right in, John McBain. I always thought you were the right man for Vangie!"
That evening, Evangeline arrived at Layla and Antonio’s apartment bearing gifts. She was happy that her younger sister found love with Antonio Vega. They were now raising Jamie together and planned on getting married soon. She often smiled when she thought about Layla and Antonio being a couple. Layla was so feisty and she’d finally met her match in Antonio.
The four of them sat around watching the Christmas classics on TV: "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Miracle on 34th Street." They drank hot apple cider and munched on popcorn, cookies, and Subway sandwiches. By ten o’clock, Jamie had fallen asleep in Evangeline’s lap. She’d been determined to wait up for Santa Claus but her little body didn’t quite make it.
"Antonio, I think this little elf has had enough for the evening," Evangeline said as she rubbed Jamie’s back.
Antonio smiled and got up from the love seat he and Layla shared. "Yeah, I think anticipation got the best of her." He picked up Jamie. "Come on, Munchkin. It’s time to go to bed."
Jaime began to stir. "Did I miss Santa, Papi?"
"No mija, he’s still in New York City. He hasn’t made it to Llanview yet."
"Well, I hope when he gets here he’ll take some of the milk and cookies I left for him. I know he’ll be hungry," she said sleepily, then drifted back off.
Evangeline realized it was time to head home herself. She opened the closet and pulled out her coat. Layla snuck up behind her.
"Hey Sis, is everything okay?"
Evangeline looked at her younger sister. "Yeah, why?"
"You seemed distracted tonight. Are you and Kevin okay?"
"Yeah. Things are fine with Kevin and me. He’s the Lieutenant Governor. I know he can’t always be here. That’s part of his job."
"Is that all?" Layla asked.
"What more could there be?" Evangeline replied.
"Okay, Sis. I know something’s up and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. But here," she said, handing Evangeline an envelope. "This is for you."
"What is this, Layla?"
"I can’t say. Just read it when you get home. Read it with an open mind. Read it and trust your heart."
Evangeline reached her apartment and was more tired than she realized. It was only 10:45 but the day had been a long one for her. Although she came home to an empty place on Christmas Eve, she was okay with that. She and Kevin were growing closer and closer each day. Things were still pretty new between them but they enjoyed spending time together. Both were passionate about their careers and Evangeline felt very comfortable around the most of the Buchanan family. And though they’d only been dating for a few months, Asa had begun encouraging Kevin to hold on to her. He wanted Evangeline to be the newest addition to the Buchanan clan.
Buoyed by the thought of spending Christmas day with Kevin, Evangeline decided to unwind in a nice, warm bath. She remembered that Layla had given her something to read, and she decided to take a look at whatever it was while relaxing. She could only imagine what it would say. Was Layla pregnant? If so, why wouldn’t she just tell her? Was she leaving Antonio and Jaime? That would be one of the dumbest things Layla could ever do. Did Antonio need her legal services? If so, he should’ve known by now that he could come to her with anything.
While sitting in a tub full of bubbles, surrounded by her favorite plumeria scented candles, Evangeline closed her eyes and sipped a glass of merlot. Then she sat the glass down and picked up Layla’s envelope. Inside was a letter. Evangeline opened it and immediately recognized the handwriting. What in the world was going on? She sat straight up and began reading.
Hello, it’s me. I know you’re probably shocked and surprised to find this is from me. I ask that you please read this letter in its entirety. I have no idea where I’m going with this (as you know, I’m not the best with words) but I do know what’s in my heart. I want to share that with you and I hope you’ll listen.
Evangeline, I know we’re not together anymore but I’ve thought about us for a long, long time. Maybe I shouldn’t think of you as much but that doesn’t change the fact that I often do. I know there are so many things I should’ve done differently, things I wanted to do differently and for one reason or another, never did.
At first, I took for granted that you’d always be there. Then later, I later took for granted that you just didn’t care. I know I often used work as an excuse, but I should’ve never placed you second to anyone or anything. I deeply regret that I tended to take your love for granted, even though I didn’t fully realize that I’d done so until it was too late.
It’s strange. Seeing you, or seeing anything as much I do you, reminds me of all that I had when we were together and all that I lost when you left. Hindsight is 20/20 and I can so clearly see everything that went wrong. I see you in Angel Square holding hands with Kevin or at the police station laughing with Nora and I think how lucky they are to be with you, just to be in your company. I had that with you and I was such a fool to let it all slip away.
I guess, in short, this letter is an attempt to tell you how I felt and how I still feel about you. The fact is I love you, Evangeline. I know you’ve moved on with Kevin. I know you’re happy with him and I know you probably don’t care how I feel about you at this point, but I wanted you to know. I could never bring myself to say the words when we were together. For some reason, I thought that I’d be punished for saying those three words and I’d lose you. I realize now how stupid that was because in the end, I lost you anyway.
Like I said, I know you’re with Kevin. I respect that. I just hope he knows how lucky he is to have you. You deserve nothing but the best.
I love you.
Evangeline reread the letter three times. Who was this new John McBain and what had he done with the old one? She marveled that John was suddenly so good with words since he always insisted he wasn’t. She was completely stunned by his declaration of love and she knew in her heart he meant every word – he wouldn’t have written it if he hadn’t. It felt good to finally know that John did love her. Their year long romance hadn’t been a complete waste of time or poor character judgment on her part.
But the longer Evangeline sat there, the more upset she got. A million questions flooded her mind. Why hadn’t John told her all of this when they were together? Why was it all so easy now? Did he really mean everything he said in the letter? And why even write a letter? Why didn’t he tell her face to face? And he mentioned NOTHING about Natalie Vega!
Determined to get some answers, Evangeline quickly finished her bath, slipped on some clothes, and headed out with purpose.
She rapped on the door and waited. It was only a few moments but it seemed like forever to her before it opened.
"Now this is a surprise. Not that I mind."
"Surprise? You wanna talk about surprises, McBain?" Evangeline pushed past him, not waiting for John to extend an invitation. "There I was celebrating a beautiful Christmas Eve at Antonio and Layla’s and as I’m leaving, Layla hands me a note and tells me to read it with my heart."
"And nothing, John!" she yelled.
John shut the door and walked over to Evangeline. He kept a respectful distance, knowing full well that this was going to be an uphill battle.
"The last thing I wanted the letter to do was to upset you."
Evangeline couldn’t believe that he’d just said that. "Well what exactly were you hoping to accomplish?"
"I honestly just wanted you to know how I felt. I thought you deserved to know."
"What I deserved was for you not to break my heart! What I deserved was to be loved by someone as much as I loved him, as much as I loved you!"
Evangeline couldn’t believe she’d just said that. The words had escaped her mouth without her permission.
John didn’t immediately respond. He wanted to tread carefully because he knew that saying the wrong thing would end their conversation in a heartbeat.
"Evangeline, you’re right. You deserved all those things. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give them to you at that time."
"But you were able to give Natalie all those things and more, John! Is this your new M.O.? Tell me something – did you write her a letter today, too? Oh that’s right! You didn’t need to write Natalie a letter because you told her you loved her while you two were together!" The painful memory made Evangeline’s blood boil. Why did she even bother?
"Okay, I deserve that. But you have to know that while I did love Natalie and cared about her well being, I was never in love with her. I tried to convince myself that I was after you ended things between us, but it didn’t work. I didn’t love her the way I loved you."
"Do you remember any of the things you said to me, John? If you don’t, I’ll remind you:
Don’t you give up on me! We’re worth fighting for!
You’re the woman I want to be with yesterday, today, tomorrow!
Everything’s definitely okay as long as I’m with you.
I don’t want to lose you.
You make me think…You make me feel things I never thought I’d feel again.
You saved me.
You deserve 100%.
I’m proud to be with you.
I’m happy to be with you.
"Does any of that sound familiar? I could go on! You said all those things and more, only to flip the script the second Natalie was found! So I don’t know what kind of game you’re trying to run on me, but I’m not playin’…not this time, John."
Evangeline pushed past John, back to the door. She opened it. He closed it. "Please don’t go," he said in a whisper.
Something about the way he said those simple words made Evangeline consider his request. As angry as she was, a part of her still wanted to hear what John had to say. Deep down, she wanted him to change her mind.
"This is so not how I wanted this to go," John said. He ran his fingers through his hair and paced the room.
Evangeline studied him, wondering where he was going with this.
"You were right about everything you said. I did say those words and I meant them. I still do. That relationship with Natalie ended sooner than it began. You used to tell me I couldn’t save the world but I needed to save Natalie because I owed her that much. She lost Cristian because of me and I felt guilty. I knew she wanted a life with me and I felt, at the very least, I could do that for her. I thought giving her the life she wanted with me would somehow make everything okay, but it didn’t. It only made things worse because I wasn’t in love with her. I was in love with you. I still am and Natalie figured that out. The funny thing is that she didn’t care. She still wanted to be with me. And then I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. Even if I couldn’t be with you, I couldn’t stay with her. I wasn’t in love with her. After Caitlyn, I thought I’d never fall in love again. But then I met you and it happened. I tried to fight it but I couldn’t."
Evangeline walked over to John. His back was to her. "John, those words sound very sweet. But why now? Why make this declaration of love for me when you know I’m with Kevin? And why on Christmas Eve of all nights?"
He turned to her and looked deep into her soulful brown eyes. "Do you love him?"
Evangeline was taken aback by John’s boldness. "John, we’ve only been dating a short amount of time. It’s too soon to tell…and it’s none of your business."
"That may be true, but Evangeline, you know we’d only been dating for two months when we realized we were falling hard for each other. We didn’t want to admit it but we both knew."
"Don’t forget that part where I told you I was falling in love with you and you never said it back."
"You’re absolutely right. I won’t even try to deny that."
"And besides that, Kevin is not you. And I’m not the same person I was then."
"You’re right, but I’m still the man who loves you. I couldn’t tell you then but I can tell you now."
"What do you want from me?" she asked, genuinely at a loss.
He stepped closer to her and again looked at her deeply, without pretense or posturing. "I want you. I want you back. But more importantly, I want you to be happy. If Kevin makes you happy, then I’ll leave you alone. But if I think I have the smallest inkling of a chance, I’m gonna take it and I won’t stop until we’re back together. I won’t stop until things are much better than before."
"I don’t believe this," Evangeline muttered. "This is ridiculous." She made a bee-line to the door.
"Why? Why is this ridiculous?"
Evangeline turned on her heels and marched back over to John. "Because you can’t do this. You don’t get to do this to me…not again."
"Evangeline, just hear me out. Give me a chance…"
"No! You had a chance…more than one…more than any man should! Why would I trust you now? Why would I be dumb enough to allow myself to risk my heart again? John, I loved you! I was so in love with you! I thought you were the finest person I’d ever met. You hurt me…you played me…you broke my heart."
Evangeline felt herself breaking down. She didn’t want to cry, that was the last thing she wanted to do in front of John.
"I mean, damn, do I have ‘fool’ written across my forehead?" she asked hastily, wiping a tear from her cheek.
John reached out and gently stroked her arm. Evangeline didn’t move away. Progress. Small but significant, he thought. Moving closer, he raised his hand to wipe her other cheek. He smiled hopefully. After so much time lost, it was so simple. He loved her. Still he hated that he made her this angry, that he ever made her doubt herself.
"No, you don’t have ‘fool’ written on your forehead. I can’t tell you enough how sorry I am that I made such an idiotic choice. I love you and that’s not going to change. I hope you’ll give me a chance to prove myself. I know earning your trust again and winning you back won’t be easy, but I’m willing to work at it as long as it takes because you’re worth it."
Evangeline was doubtful. "I’ve heard that before."
"You’re right. My actions didn’t show it, but you were worth it then and you’re still worth it now."
"John, I just don’t know."
John ran his fingers through Evangeline’s silky black tresses. He hadn’t done that in so long wanted them to remain in that moment forever. "I love you."
The sincerity in his eyes and tone touched Evangeline. She knew this was the real thing. She also knew that she couldn’t fight him anymore because whether she wanted to admit it or not, she loved him, too. She’d never stopped. Though things were good with Kevin, their relationship didn’t begin to compare to what she and John once shared. She was willing to take that risk again.
"I love you, too," she finally admitted.
"Yeah," she assured with a smile.
John pulled her face to his, and together they shared a heartfelt kiss.
Evangeline awoke Christmas morning, still feeling sleepy. The sun shone brightly through the curtains. She smiled at the thought of starting a new day. She rolled over and immediately met a pair of stunning blue eyes gazing at her from across the room.
She beamed. "Hey, what are you doing all the way over there?"
John grinned impishly, like a little boy who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "I was just watching you sleep."
Evangeline sat up in bed and finger combed her hair. "What? How long have you been over there?" She looked at John seemingly content in his over-sized leather chair.
"A couple of hours."
"Just watching me sleep?" she asked skeptically.
John gave a light laugh. Evangeline knew him too well.
"Well, yeah, I enjoy watching you sleep. I missed doing that this year. But I was also having trouble keeping my hands to myself. I didn’t want you to get the wrong idea. That’s not what last night was about."
Evangeline was touched by John’s sensitivity. "John, I didn’t think last night was about your attempt to get me in bed, especially since we didn’t do anything more than talk and fall asleep."
He nodded. "Well, that’s good."
She could see that he was thinking something in that lieutenant head of his. "Out with it, McBain. I know there’s another reason why you’re sitting over there instead of here."
"I guess…I guess I was just hoping that you wouldn’t wake up feeling like last night was a mistake. I watched you sleep and I thought about how it used to be when things were good between us. It felt good having you here all the time, ya know? And then I went almost an entire year without you. Now you’re back and I…I don’t wanna to lose you again. I just wanted to remember this moment …this moment of you sleeping peacefully, in my bed, in my old Llanview PD tee shirt like you used to."
Evangeline grinned. She was so head over heels in love with this man. She held her hand out to him, inviting him to join her back in bed. When he got there, she carefully traced his face with her hand and then gave him a soft kiss.
"I’m not going anywhere," she said tenderly, then raised a curious eyebrow. "Unless you give me reason to, like say making another dumbass decision to be with Natalie instead of me."
John howled at the thought. "Okay, you definitely have my word! That won’t happen again. My dumbass days are over. Deal?" he asked, extending his right hand.
"Deal," she replied, and they shook on it.
"I love you, Counselor. Never forget that."
"I really like the sound of that coming from your lips. I can definitely get used to hearing it."
"I love you," he repeated, inching closer to her.
Evangeline grinned, eagerly anticipating what was coming next.
"I love you," he said once more. And then again, just a nose away from her, "I love you."
"You better," she replied as their lips met in another sweet kiss.
After the kiss, they both held each other in silence. Things were changing for the better for both of them. This was the new beginning they’d both been yearning for. The new year held so much promise, and now they were secure in knowing they’d face any and all obstacles together.
Kissing her nose, he leaned in so that their foreheads touched. "Merry Christmas, Evangeline," he whispered.
She smiled serenely and let out a tranquil sigh. "Merry Christmas, John."