On the Mountain by black_IrishMcBain

Chapter 21


Carlotta had asked to see Evangeline, and the psychiatrist had approved the meeting between the would-be murderer and the survivor. Evangeline stood in the psychiatrist's office, looking at a replication of Degas' The Dance Class.

Her eyes fell lazily over the scene: lovely girls in their white tutus; the dance teacher with a wooden staff that was likely older than his students; the girl with her green sash, holding the teacher's attention.  She was in the middle, that girl with the green sash, striking a pose.  She had the most important eyes in the room on her, yet Evangeline thought to herself how lonely the girl must have been in her strive to be perfect for the teacher.

She thought of her own years as a ballerina, her young body bending to her instructor's will.  Evangeline had been the one student whom the teacher had hoped would make it professionally, and the young
Evangeline would practice for hours on end to fulfill her obligation to her mentor's dream.  Both she and the instructor were devastated when Evangeline was betrayed by her adolescent body in a wild growth
spurt.  She grew too tall to become a professional ballerina.

Evangeline's arms crossed over her body, as she imagined how different her life would have been in the arts.  She wouldn't be here now.  Her fingers absent-mindedly brushed over the raised scar on her arm, where Carlotta's madness had ravaged her.  The physical pain had been so temporary.  Evangeline feared, though, that the emotional hurt, might be as permanent as the thin beige scar that John would sometimes cry over as they lay in bed.

John had wanted to come with her today, even if it were to just stand outside the building while she met with Carlotta.  They were leaving for Ireland that night, and John had said he didn't want to risk
losing her again.

"I know you don't need my protection and that I can't be with you everywhere.  You don't have to say it," John had said.  "But I can be there for you.  I'm ready to listen when you're ready to talk about what happened with Carlotta."

Evangeline had smiled and kissed him softly on the lips.  And she had lied: "Honey, I'm fine."

She'd lied to John to everyone about her feelings.  She thought to herself that they all needed her to be well so that they could get on with the happiness of their lives.  The only ones who wouldn't believe
her and would say so were Todd and John.

Todd would always drive any conversation back to Carlotta.  They could be talking about ice cream, and Todd would wonder aloud which would be the best flavor for Carlotta to choke on.  He would not stand for any of Evangeline's attempts to avoid him and would wait outside her and John's home at insanely early hours just to catch her before she went to work.  She had even accused the two men of devising a system for finding her.

John's approach wasn't as confrontational, but he, too, seemed ever-present.  That was his message: that he was always, always there for her if she needed him.

The only crack in her armor had come when she had misplaced her cell phone, and she had nearly torn the house apart looking for it.  She was sure she had placed it on the vanity the night before.  John had
come upon her, as she was engrossed in her search, as she was throwing items out of the top drawer of the armoire in the bedroom.  He had touched her shoulder lightly, and she had let out a short scream.
This was only three weeks after Carlotta had cut into her spirit.

"Why would you do that?" she yelled.

She snatched her cell phone from his outstretched hand and threw it across the room, smashing it to pieces.  As John reached out for her, she stepped to the side, away from his loving concern.

"I'm alright.  I'm alright," she said.

He pulled her into his arms, though she struggled.  He didn't say a word.  She kept pushing him and hitting him and crying, insisting that she was fine when she wasn't.  As she quieted into silent grief in his
embrace, John reminded her that she could share her feelings, that she didn't have to put on her game face for him.

Nora and her mother were supportive, but they wouldn't confront Evangeline about her trauma.  They'd simply provide hugs and kisses and cheeseburgers when needed.  For the rest who knew her,
Evangeline's ruse of perfect well-being sent them happily on their way.

Lorenzo had returned home, accepting at face value her word that she was well.  He, in turn, had promised her that no harm would come to Carlotta and her family: no car accidents, no mysterious diseases, no assassins, nothing.  Evangeline had entrusted Killian to Lorenzo as well.  The two had gone back to Port Charles together, where Killian had interviewed for a position at General Hospital.  Lorenzo had intimated that the Irish doctor was a shoe-in to become the next chief of pathology.

Evangeline heard a light tapping on the frame of the open door to the office.  She turned away from Degas' ballerinas to face the gentle psychiatrist and a downcast Carlotta, who had a rosary intertwined in
her fingers.

Grey hairs had crowded along the edge of Carlotta's hairline like weeds, and she was limping from her latest hip surgery.  Evangeline felt her shoulders relax some, as she could see Carlotta as she really
was.  In her memory, Carlotta had seemed bigger somehow and so much younger.

As she placed Carlotta in a seat at the thick, polished dark wood table, the psychiatrist motioned that she would be waiting outside. Evangeline nodded and took a seat on the opposite side of the table from where the old woman was sitting.

"Thank you for coming," Carlotta said.

"You're welcome," Evangeline said quietly.  She coughed the small frog out of her throat and excused the noise.

"I know it must have been difficult for you, considering how I've hurt you," Carlotta said, her brow furrowed with the pain of remembering her actions.  "I just wanted to ask you I needed to ask you "

"What is it?"

"I'm sorry.  This is difficult for me too," Carlotta said. "I was a completely different person then.  Yet, I was myself.  It's hard for people to understand.  It's much easier to accept a missing arm or a heart attack than it is to accept mental illness."

Evangeline began to bounce her knee.  "Why did you need to see me?"

"I needed to ask your forgiveness," Carlotta said, her eyes brimming with tears.  "I know you won't believe this, but I love you.  I was sick when I did what I did.  I hope you can forgive me."

Evangeline hands were clenched into fists of tension.  Her first instinct was to lie and say that everything was alright.  She wanted to smile and kindly forgive Carlotta as she would a dinner guest who had spilled red wine on her carpet.  Carlotta hadn't spilled red wine; she'd spilled blood John's and Evangeline's.

John had already extended his forgiveness.  He'd been to St. Anne's a few times to meet with Carlotta and her psychiatrist.  He'd had his own amends to make.

"It's easier to forgive someone for their sins when you've got your own that need to be absolved," John had said.

Evangeline hadn't done anything to Carlotta other than loving the man Carlotta hated.  She'd always helped Antonio with any crisis he'd had. She'd freed Cristian from prison those many years ago.  If she and John had been one person in Carlotta's diseased mind, then Evangeline's good deeds should have balanced out John's mistakes.

Her stomach churned.  "I can't.  I can't forgive you, Carlotta at least not right now," Evangeline said.

"But I was sick, mi hija."

"I know," Evangeline said, standing.  "I'm not perfect."

Later that night, as she sat next to John on the plane, Evangeline lifted the window shade slightly.  She didn't want the brightness of the moonlight to wake John, but she couldn't sleep.

As she had run out of St. Anne's, into the parking lot, Evangeline had come face to face with Antonio.  They hadn't seen each other since the incident, since his mother had tried to kill her.  He'd asked after
her through mutual friends, but he hadn't come to see her.

They had been silent and awkward with each other, for the first time since they'd met.  Evangeline was wringing her hands, as Antonio studied the gravel of the parking lot.  Five minutes had passed like an eternity before Antonio could stammer out a greeting.

"I went to see your mother," Evangeline blurted out.

Antonio had looked at her with such sadness that her heart broke.  His eyes were shiny and wet, and he bit his lip as he nodded his head.

"She asked me to forgive her, but I couldn't," Evangeline said, her body suddenly racked with sobs.  "I'm sorry.  I couldn't.  I couldn't."

Antonio had caught her in his arms, and he'd stroked her hair, as her head rested against his shoulder.  His own tears were falling.

"I understand, Eva," he had whispered. "I couldn't either."

John shifted in his seat, the gleam of the still-white clouds had found his face.  His blue eyes fluttered open, and Evangeline leaned over to kiss him.  She realized she had wanted to wake him up.

"I'm not perfect," she said, her forehead resting against his.

"I know," he said.  "How else would I have ever gotten a shot with you."

She kissed him again.  "I forgive you," she said.

He pulled back and stared at her.  "Thank you."

Evangeline brushed her hand over his cheek.  She felt as though she could breathe freely again.  She'd finally allowed herself to release the resentment she'd felt over John's bad decisions: the ones that had
put her life at risk, the ones that had brewed madness in Carlotta's mind, the ones that had almost cost her a dear friendship with Antonio, the ones that had made it so that she had to forgive herself for loving him.

"Thank you," he said again, because it beared repeating.

Closing the window shade once more, Evangeline settled into John's arms and put her head on his shoulder.  It had been such a long day, such a long road.  She looked forward to her dreams, to the promise of a new day.