His Brother's Woman
As Michael knocked on the door, he heard laughter Ė Natalieís. Great, he thought, this is not how I wanted to have this conversation, but it has to be done. Iím not like John; I have to face how my feelings have changed.
Michael leaned against the door frame waiting for his brother to answer the door.
"Michael? What are you doing here?"
"I need to talk to you."
"Right now? Natalie and I were about to grab a bite to eat."
"Yeah, right now. It canít wait."
John frowned at the seriousness of Michaelís tone. "Okay, come on in."
Michael looked at Natalie standing in the doorway of the bathroom obviously waiting to find out why he was there.
"I need to talk to you alone," Michael said in a hushed tone. "Why donít we go to my place instead?"
John glanced over his shoulder at Natalie and must have understood Michaelís need for privacy.
"Okay," John said to Michael, then turning to Natalie, "Iím going up to Michaelís. Iíll be back soon so we can go to Rodiís."
Michael could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to know, but he knew that she wouldnít ask. She wouldnít push John to tell her anything he didnít want too. She was a complacent girl that took whatever John dished out. That was evident by the fact that she gave John the time of day after heíd told her time and time again that she wasnít the woman he wanted. Well, the woman he wanted John had decided he couldnít have and she was alone. That was something Michael wanted to remedy.
"Okay, Mikey. Whatís so important you needed to see me alone?"
"Iím going to ask Evangeline out and I wanted to tell you myself."
Michael watched John adopt his poker face and knew that heíd just distanced himself from his feelings Ė something John was very good at.
"I think itís great that you and Evangeline are becoming such good friends. I know sheís been dating some, but Iím sure she appreciates you being there for her."
"I donít mean as friends. John, you know as well as I do, that Evangeline is a beautiful woman inside and out. You couldnít or wouldnít make it work with her and I want her. I thought Marcie and I had a chance, but sheís with Hugh and Iím not as upset as I should be for a man whoís supposed to be in love with her. Iím having feelings for Evangeline that I never thought possible. She is so special and I want to hold on to that."
"When did all this happen? Is this your idea of getting me to face my feelings for Evangeline?"
"No. I donít play those games. You should know that better than anybody."
"Werenít you trying to get Marcie back?"
"Marcie is happy with Hugh and Iím happiest when Iím with Evangeline. Weíve been spending quite a bit of time together since you two broke up."
"Michael, are you sure thatís a good idea? I mean, we were pretty serious."
Michael could see that John didnít like the thought of him and Evangeline and even though he loved and respected his brother, he didnít really care whether he liked it or not. You couldnít help who you fell for and Michael knew if he gave himself half a chance he could fall for Evangeline.
"Yeah, I know, but youíve moved on with Natalie and I believe I can make Evangeline happy. Thatís why I came to you first. I wanted you to know from me and not hear about it around town. Evangeline and I understand each other; we can actually talk to each other. We have fun together. Sheís simply amazing. How you could have let her leave you, Iíll never understand, but I count it a blessing for me."
"Well, if you two kids think you can make a go of it, I say best of luck." The frown on Johnís face said different, but Michael ignored it.
"Iím not gonna need luck. Iíll have the Angel," Michael said with a smile. He opened the door escorting his brother out of his room, as he went to meet Evangeline for the lunch theyíd planned at the Rodiís.
"John, what did Michael want to talk to you about?"
John was in no mood to discuss Evangeline with Natalie.
"Natalie, I donít want to talk about it."
Heíd let her get away and he was constantly reminded of it. Evangeline had been out on a few dates; he knew because he kept tabs on her. For a while it had looked like Dr. Jamison would be the new man in her life, but sheíd kept it casual. John had wanted her happy, but he didnít want her with another man. How crazy was that?
"Is everything okay? You seem upset."
Yes, Iím upset; my brother is getting serious about the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with. Iím just too afraid to talk to her.
"Natalie, Iím not talking about it."
"Okay. Are you ready to go to Rodiís?"
"Yeah, letís go."
Evangeline walked into Rodiís for her weekly lunch with Michael. She was so glad for her friendship with him. Michael was a man who was in touch with his feelings and not afraid to share them. Evangeline appreciated the trust he placed in her more than anything. Michael had made her breakup with John a lot easier to take. While she still cared for John, she could smile again and mean it. Michael was mostly responsible for that.
"Hi, doc," she said walking across the restaurant to their regular table.
"Hi, yourself." Michael glanced at his watch without looking at her. "Youíre late."
"I know. There was a last minute call from a client, but I got here as quickly as I could."
"I guess Iíll forgive you today, but donít let that happen again," he joked, looking up at her with a smile.
"Iíll remember that doctor." Evangeline kissed him on the cheek before taking her seat. Evangeline picked up her menu and asked, "Howís your day going so far?"
"Itís good," he said, watching at her across the table. "Howís yours?"
"Good, except for the last minute call." She glanced over the menu at Michael and smiled. When she noticed the look on his face, she took pause. "Whatís up? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"I just realized that I want us to see where we can go in a real relationship."
"What?" Evangeline laid the menu down on the table and knew shock covered her face.
"Okay, before you just say no, hear me out. We are great friends and we have a lot of fun together. We understand each other. I want to see if it can grow into something else."
"Michael, Iím not sure we should do this. I mean, John and I were pretty serious and you love Marcie. What would this do to your relationship with John?"
"I know you have reservations. I have reservations, too, but I know I want a chance with you. As for me and John, I told him about this before I got here. I donít know that heís really okay with it, but weíre brothers. Weíll be okay."
A waiter walked toward the table, but catching Michaelís eye he turned toward another table.
"What if it doesnít work Michael?"
"For the past few months, weíve been spending a lot of time together and when we almost kissed the other night; I knew there was something else there. I want the chance to see where it can go. I think the key to that is to be honest with each other and decide if we want to make it work. If either of us isnít getting what we want, we have to tell the other."
"Michael, I donít know. I donít want to lose you. You are one of my best friends."
"I feel the same way about you. As long as we remember that, weíll be okay." Michael stretched his hand out to Evangeline and she looked at it for a moment. Evangeline loved Michael as a friend and she trusted him. He was part of the reason she hadnít dated anyone else seriously. She didnít have the connection with any of them that she had with Michael. With that I mind, she smiled at him and placed her hand in his.
"Okay, letís try," Evangeline said. Michael leaned across the table and kissed her right there at the table. The sparks Evangeline felt werenít expected. She hadnít felt anything like it since John and this was much better, because she knew where Michael stood. There might actually be a real chance.
When they pulled apart, Evangeline noticed the atmosphere in the room had changed. She and Michael glanced toward the door and there stood John and Natalie. The look on their faces was priceless, but more than anything Evangeline realized she didnít feel any pain at seeing them. She was getting over John. How amazing was that?
Looking back at Michael, Evangeline smiled and said, "Well, this could get interesting."
"Would you feel better if we went somewhere else?"
"No. They donít bother me, plus this is our place, too."
Michael smiled in response and squeezed her hand. The waiter arrived to take their order.
When walked away from the table, Evangeline took a deep breath and voiced a concern.
"I know that you say you and Marcie are through, but before we go any further, Iíd like to talk to her about this. Marcie and I arenít best friends, but I do consider her someone special so I want to make sure she knows."
"I donít have a problem with that. Do you want me to go with you?"
"No, Iím a big girl. I can handle it, but thanks for asking."
With that out of the way, they relaxed into an easy conversation, totally ignoring the looks that were being tossed their way from the table across the restaurant.
"Whatís going on with them?" Natalie asked, her curiosity boiling over. She was so engrossed by Michael and Evangeline that she didnít see the scowl that took up residence on Johnís face.
"I donít know, Natalie. Why do you care?"
"Well, heís your brother. Evangeline is probably just trying to get to you through Michael."
"Evangeline would never use someone to get to me. Sheís a better woman than that," John said with a stern look on his face.
"Thatís right, because sheís so perfect."
"Sheís not perfect, but sheís not selfish. Thatís just who she is."
"I canít believe youíre defending her to me."
"Natalie, Iím just telling the truth. I donít have to defend her, her reputation and her actions do that."
Natalie picked up the menu and didnít say another word until the waiter came to take their order and for that John was relieved. When heíd put Evangeline in that box he kept closed, he had expected to be able to put her away just like Caitlyn. The problem was Evangeline wasnít dead and the fact that he saw her regularly didnít help. Now she was dating Ė Michael, of all people. And Michael might have a chance of getting all the things John wanted. How was he supposed to handle that?
"Lunch was special today and so was the other thing," Evangeline said with a grin touching her lips.
"Well, can I get a little more of the other thing?" Michael asked from her side as he stood pulling her chair back from the table.
"Sure." She stood and pressed up on her toes to press a soft kiss against his lips. Her eyes were dancing when she pulled away. "Iíll see you later?"
"You can count on it," Michael said caressing Evangelineís check with his thumb.
"Oh, I have a meeting at the Love Center later and Marcie will be there. I think Iíll go ahead and talk to her then, since weíve been seen kissing in public. I feel like I ought to talk to her stat."
"Thatís probably a good idea. I like when you use those medical terms, counselor."
"I know," she said, with a wink as she left him standing there in the middle of the diner watching her leave.
Michael knew that he was in for an adventure with a woman like Evangeline. They were so different, yet so much alike. Michael knew from some of his conversations with John that Evangeline liked Modern Dance and Tennis. He almost felt bad about using knowledge heíd learned from his brother to woo Evangeline, but he pushed that aside.
Michael knew from experience what a loving woman Evangeline was. He remembered how sheíd always been there for him when he and Marcie broke up, even when he might have pissed her off. Michael was going to use every weapon in his arsenal to break down Evangelineís defenses and take her heart prisoner Ė never to be released.
The meeting felt like it would never end. Evangeline wanted to get her talk with Marcie out of the way. At this point, Evangeline didnít know how sheíd handle Marcie not being okay with her and Michael. She was actually excited about pursuing a relationship with someone who willingly admitted wanting one. Evangeline was so caught up in her thoughts that she didnít realize the meeting had ended.
"Hey, Evangeline, whatís with that smile? You look really happy."
"Hey, Marcie. I didnít realize I was smiling, but I need to talk to you for a minute if thatís okay."
"Sure, Iím not meeting Hugh for another hour so I have time."
"Good, I wanted to talk to you about Michael."
"Is he okay?"
"Yeah, he is. Um, Iím not really sure how to approach this, but here goes. Michael and I have been spending a lot of time together since we broke up with you and John. We really enjoy the time we spend and weíve decided to see where things can go with us. I wanted to talk to you about it because while we arenít best friends, I do consider you a good one and I donít want to hurt you or destroy the friendship we have."
"Evangeline, I donít know what to say. I canít believe you would come to me about you and Michael."
"Well, I just wanted everything out in the open. I didnít want you to hear about us from someone else. I treasure your friendship and I know that Michael cares about you. The last thing either of us wants is for you to get hurt."
"You know, if I didnít know you better, Iíd think you were trying to push my buttons. But, I do know you and I really appreciate you being concerned about me. Iím totally fine about you and Michael. Iím really happy with Hugh and I want that for the two of you. Thanks for telling me yourself. I know youíll take good care of him."
The two women shared an understanding smile and Evangeline knew that her time with Michael would be that much more special because theyíd taken care of John and Marcie.
"Hey E. What are you doing tonight?" Evangeline smiled at Michaelís question and bit her bottom lip.
"I donít know. What am I doing tonight?"
"Dinner at the Palace?" Evangeline could hear the tentativeness in Michaelís voice and found it extremely attractive.
"Iíd like that."
"Okay, 7 oíclock at the Palace and donít be late."
"Yes, sir. Iíll see you later."
"Bye," she whispered to the dial tone at the other end of the phone. Evangeline was actually excited about the evening. This was a feeling sheíd been experiencing for a while with Michael and had refused to evaluate.
Michael placed the phone on the receiver and moved to finish his rounds. As he turned the corner heading to the North wing of the hospital, he ran into Natalie.
"Hey Michael," she said with a smile.
"Hi Natalie, what are you doing here?"
"I actually came by to see you."
"Really? Why? Is something wrong? Are you feeling okay?"
"Oh, Iím fine. Iím just worried about you."
At that, Michael took a speculative stance. Why would Natalie be worried about him?
"Oh, yeah? Why?"
"Well, I saw you and Evangeline earlier and I was just wondering whatís going on."
"John didnít tell you?" Michael watched the flush cover her face. This was interesting. Maybe everything wasnít golden in paradise.
"What was there for him to say?"
Michael smiled at the question. She was really fishing. Well, letís see what she can catch, he thought before answering, "Just the fact that Evangeline and I are seeing each other."
"Michael, are you sure about that? She was so in love with John. I donít want to see you hurt."
Michaelís eyes narrowed at Natalieís comment. He knew that this was a fishing expedition and Natalie had no clue what she was about to get.
"Natalie, Evangeline is over John, so donít worry about me. Sheís more than I ever imagined. Sheís the smartest, most beautiful and loving woman I know. I want to be a better man with her and she doesnít even ask me to. I can trust her with anything. I donít know that Iíve ever felt like this before and weíre going to see where it goes."
As Michael spoke, he saw how Natalie was caught off guard by how he described Evangeline. He watched her eyes widen and knew that she had no idea how a real relationship should work.
"Well, if youíre sureÖ."
"I am . . . more . . . than sure. Sheís amazing and I plan to keep her. So, you donít have to worry about her coming after John. She has me. Now, I have to finish my rounds. See ya," Michael said walking toward his next patientís room. Natalie was a piece of work, but Michael felt sorry for her. She would never truly be happy because she always wanted what someone else had.
Evangeline made her way to Boís office to speak about a client that had been picked up earlier. She glanced down at her watch to make sure she was still on schedule. As she rounded the corner, she ran smack dab into John. She dropped her briefcase and he grabbed her arms to keep her from falling. Evangeline didnít feel that usual sensation from being around John. He bent to retrieve her briefcase and she had to smile. Sheíd been hell bent on getting over him and sheíd made progress.
"Iím sorry for running into you. Iím kind of in a hurry," she said.
"Oh, how are you?"
"Iím fine. How are you?"
"Okay. Michael told me about the two of you," John said with a look of interest. What was he expecting her to say?
"Yeah, he told me."
"Are you sure you know what youíre doing?" John asked the question with more than mere curiosity.
The fact that he asked her the question at all caused her to smile. What had she really seen in him? John was a damaged man who might never get to the root of the poison that slowly killed him. She felt sorry for him. How Michael had turned out so different was beyond her, but she was so glad that she had him. He was a wonderful man and friend who knew what was important. Evangeline had been blessed when she and John broke up. She just hadnít realized it.
"Actually, I know what Iím doing for the first time in a long time. This makes sense, finally being with someone I want who has made it clear that they want me and only me."
"I just want you to be happy."
"Thanks, I am and I want the same thing for you."
"Thank you," John said reaching out as if to touch her. She backed away from the touch as she noticed Natalie over Johnís shoulder.
"If youíll excuse me, Iím here to see Bo about a case. Have a good life John. I wish you nothing, but the best," Evangeline said as she walked around John and past Natalie.
"What was that about?"
"Nothing. Evangeline and I ran into each other, literally."
"I just saw something. You still have feelings for her, donít you?"
"No, you do, donít you? You wished you were with her just now, didnít you?"
"Evangeline and I are over. We have been for a long time. Iím with you."
"But you want her. You look at her different. I know you love me, but you want her."
"Natalie, Iím not talking about Evangeline to you or anyone else. She has been lost to me for a long time. Sheís not in the picture."
"Are you happy?"
"Are you happy? I mean, Iím so happy to be with you. Are you?"
"Natalie, I donít know what happy is."
"E, sweetie," Michael said from behind Evangeline at the Host stand.
"Hi. Youíre late."
"I know. I had an emergency at the hospital and I wasnít sure that I would make it at all, but we got it all taken care of."
"Well, since you were saving lives, I guess Iíll be understanding," she said with a smirk."
"Thanks for your generosity," he said leaning down to kiss her. He wrapped an arm around her and deepened the kiss, as she pressed her palm against his cheek. Evangeline pulled away as they heard a cough from the host interrupting them to lead them to their table. She blushed as she followed the host with Michaelís hand pressed to her lower back. Evangeline caught her bottom lip between her teeth and smiled at Michael as he held her chair.
"Has any one ever told you youíre gorgeous?" Michael asked as Evangeline tilted her head to the side looking at the menu.
"I donít think so."
"Well, thatís your new nickname." Evangelineís smile widened at the comment.
"I just call Ďem like I see Ďem."
They studied the menus for a few minutes and Evangeline found herself taking long glances at Michael. She finally laid her menu down and placed her arms across it.
"Yeah," he said laying his menu down as well.
"Iím really glad weíre taking this step."
"Yeah. After your brother, I didnít think Iíd ever want to fall in love again, but now I can see the pot at the end of the rainbow."
"I feel the same way. Howíd your talk with Marcie go?"
"I was good. She basically gave us her blessing. She wants us to be happy. She is such a sweetheart."
"Good. All the exes are out of the way."
"Yep, and weíre free to get this show on the road," she teased.
"Do you know how special you are?" Michael asked, taking Evangelineís hand from the table. As he rubbed his thumb across her palm, he continued, "I watched my brother take your love for granted and I hurt for you. Iím just glad I have a chance to make up for what he did and have a future with you. You are everything I ever wanted. The thing we have to remember is to be honest and open with each other."
"Iíll remember if you will."
"I donít know how I could forget."
One and a half years laterÖ
"Whereís little Robert Thomas McBain?" John asked walking up to the window of the Nursery.
"Heís right there in the middle," said the proud papa who couldnít take his eyes off the little boy. Michael turned to John with tears in his eyes and a smile so bright it could rival a night at Times Square. "I never knew it would feel like this Ė being a dad. Iíve got to see my wife."
Michael turned after patting his brother on the back and practically ran down the hall in the direction of the Evangelineís room.
John stood in the hallway looking at his new nephew and imagined what his life would have been like if he had faced his demons two years prior. That could have been his baby and Evangeline could have been his wife. Heíd made a mess of his life, but at least Evangeline was safe and happy. It was amazing to watch her and Michael together. They fit like two peas in a pod.
John envied his brother. He knew he could never have anything like that since Evangeline was taken. John pressed his hand against the glass and made the little boy a promise.
"Iíll always be here for you, Tommy. I let your mom down, but Uncle John will never let you down. I love you little man."
John turned from the window and moved toward the exit. There was nothing left for him to do except feel.