Fire by Hunterseyelandgrl
Belle of The Ball
(This has a few lines from the 10/06 episode.)
(A month later)
After many long hours of waxing, exfoliating, moisturising and whatever other -ings there are that have to do with getting ready for a big event, I'm finally almost ready. All I have left to do is my hair and makeup and put my dress on. And I have to do all of this within the next forty five minutes. Luckily for me, I was smart enough to have done my nails the day before.
As I sit in front of my vanity mirror, I ask myself why am I getting all dolled up to go to a gala that I didn't want to go to, given by a man I didn't even like. If it weren't for the fact that it was in honour of Viki Davidson, I wouldn't even have considered going. I have to admit that I was a little more than surprised that John and I were invited. In fact I was surprised that a lot of people got invited. But for some odd reason, Tico invited everyone in Llanview. John's theory for the reason that he was invited was so that Tico could keep an eye on him.
I for one am more than a little skittish. I heard that a month ago there was a huge gala in Pine Valley where a game of Murder almost ended up in someone dying. And it was a known fact that Ryan Lavery and Zach Slater didn't get along, just as it is a known fact that John and Tico don't get along. I shake my head and resume curling my hair. This night had better be well worth all of this fuss on my part.
Twenty minutes later, I'm still not ready and John rings my doorbell. I stick my head out of the window and throw him my keys, telling him to let himself in. And in another ten minutes, I'm ready and I look stunning if I must say so myself. Which is a good thing because at least half of the stuff I had to do to get ready hurt like hell.
As I step out of my bedroom into the living room, I'm glad that my apartment has carpet and John can't hear me. I stand in the doorway of the living room, watching him. He's wearing a jet black tux with a cream coloured shirt and the gold cufflinks that I bought him a month ago.
It's sort of weird the way we act around each other. We try to act detached, but we both know that we should stop fooling around and pretending that we don't feel the way we do. When I went to NY to get my dress, I was walking on Madison Avenue, and I saw a pair of gold cufflinks with concentric squares that I knew John would like, but never get for himself. So I went inside and bought them for him. I was going to give them to him for Christmas, but when I saw his tux and the shirt that came with it, I thought it was a perfect match and so I gave them to him.
And the best part about it was that he didn't turn around an buy me a gift just because I bought him one. Whenever people do that, I get the feeling that they're trying to compete with me. I'd much rather get a small gift that's priceless and has a significant meaning than a really expensive gift bought to show off.
While I've been standing immersed in my own thoughts, John has realised that I'm in the room. He turns to face me and I swear, my heart nearly jumped into my throat. Since that's anatomically impossible, it just began fluttering. The tux looked even better on him than I first thought and the soft light coming from my lamps hit his eyes and made his already spell-binding eyes twin pools of a warm, yet breathtaking shade of cerulean. It takes all of my self control not to just rip his clothes off right now. And even with the self control, I'm still sorely tempted to do it.
When I turned away from the window and saw Evangeline, I stopped breathing and my heart skipped a few beats. She looked gorgeous in the ivory evening gown she was wearing. It was strapless and had a bone- in bodice with a small gold ribbon lacing up the front. The full skirt of her gown had gold embroidery at the hem. She wore a pair of amber chandelier earrings and her hair put into a bun with a few curls cascading down her back and a few wisps of hair out in the front. The whole outfit brought out the gold undertones in her skin and made her look radiant.
"You look fantastic." I manage to choke out.
"You look pretty good yourself." she answers with her trademark grin. She walks over to where I'm standing to hug me and I notice something very odd about her.
"You're almost taller than me!" I say, with what I know is an amazed and somewhat confused look.
She pulls up the skirt of her dress just enough to reveal a pair of ivory sandals with a gold buckle on each shoe. And with very high stiletto heels. The fact that I know these things means that I need to stop hanging out with Shannon so much.
"I decided to be not so conservative and get a pair of four inch heels that I know are going to kill my feet. I didn't think that I would end up being taller than you. Do you mind? Because if you do, I have another pair of shoes that I can wear with this dress."
"Why would I mind? You look great and you shouldn't feel the need to change even if I did mind."
"I'm glad you don't mind. Because I wasn't planning on changing the shoes after I bought them specifically for this event."
I smile at her and hand her a small plastic box. She looks at me with some confusion and asks, " What is it?"
"Just open it."
She opens it to reveal three different wrist corsages.
"They're gorgeous, but you do know that I can't wear all three of them, right?"
"You're only supposed to wear one. If you haven't noticed, they're different kinds of flowers. So you can choose the one you like the best. I remember you saying that you still hadn't found a bracelet that matched your dress, so I figured, you can never go wrong with flowers."
"That's really sweet John. I'm gonna pick the white rose because that's one of my favourite flowers." she says, giving me a quick peck on the lips and holding out her wrist so that I can tie the corsage on.
"I'm glad you like it. Now why don't we get a move on? After all, right now the gala's missing the most beautiful woman in the state of Philadelphia."
She grins and rolls her eyes, walking towards the door.
As soon as John parks the car, he's on the passenger side, opening the door and helping me out. As we walk the block and a half to the Palace hotel, I turn to John and say, "You know that there's valet parking, right?"
"You think I'm going to let someone else handle my car? You've got to be kidding."
"You mean that you wouldn't even let me drive it?" I ask with an impish grin, knowing that he's going to unknowingly walk into a trap.
And of course he accepts the bait. "Hmm", he says, pretending to think, "Yeah, I think I would probably let you drive it... once."
"I'm guessing that that's a pretty special honour."
"You guessed right." he says with a smile.
For the most part, it annoys me when men act stupidly over their cars, but in this case, I totally understand. John's car is the kind of car I've always wanted, but never had the courage to buy. It's a restored, fire engine red Mustang convertible. The only thing that I would do if I had a car like that is paint it black with flames on the sides. Which is exactly how I feel. I can be elegant and graceful and at the same time, a wild child. Because although not many people know it, I actually am sort of wild. Only a choice few people have seen that side of me because that's my most vulnerable side. I leave things to Fate and Destiny instead of having control over everything like I usually am. John just sort of forced that part of me out, because he refused to let me guard myself and stay in control all the time.
And I'm glad of that. His low husky growl and warm breath that fans my cheek as he leans down to whisper, "Penny for your thoughts." surprise and thrill me so much that I can barely find enough words to string a coherent sentence.
He chuckles softly and says, " What are you thinking about?"
"My car? That's sort of a weird thing to be thinking about, don't you think?"
"It's not weird, just not what you expect me think about. But I was thinking about how I wish I had the guts to buy a Mustang when I wanted one."
He gives me an incredulous look.
"A Mustang? Evangeline Williamson wanted a Mustang? I would laugh, but..."
"... I'd kill you." I say with a grin as we walk into the ballroom.
I hate to admit it but Tico made an amazing transformation in the Palace ball room. It was pretty before, but now it just looks like something straight out of a fairytale. And with this gorgeous dress that I'm wearing, I feel like a princess, with John as the handsome prince. It's funny how I look at things so unconventionally and yet, at the same time, it's also very conventional.
I mean every little girl dreams of a Prince Charming one day coming and sweeping them off of their feet. The only difference is that life in of itself usually makes little girls realize that there is no such thing as Prince Charming and as much stuff that life has thrown my way, I still haven't given up this hope. And right beside me may be the one and only Prince Charming in the world.
"Thinking of anyone in particular?"
I look up to find that at some point while I've been lost in my own thoughts, John has wandered a few feet away from me and Natalie has sidled up towards me. For some reason, every time I see her, I get antsy. And seeing her now just makes that dull feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get when I know something bad is going to happen, get worse.
"I was thinking of all those fairy tales where there's a princess and a Prince Charming and how much the ballroom looks like something straight out of one of those fairy tales." I answer, warily. Luckily for me Natalie is satisfied with my answer and doesn't ask me to explain it to her. After a few second of awkward silence, Natalie bids me a good night and walks away.
A few minutes after that, I literally run into Jessica. I was looking across the ballroom for John and not looking where I was going and I guess Jessica must have been looking for Antonio, because we walk smack into each other. While we're dusting ourselves off, the guys spot us and walk over, both wearing identically curious looks. Jessica and I give each other a secret smile when they question us about how we ended up on the floor.
"Let's just say that from now on, we'll both be paying much more attention to where we're going." Jessica says with a grin.
John gives me a scrutinizing look, but I make sure that I have a perfectly neutral expression on my face. After a few seconds, he just gives up and shakes his head.
After a few minutes of talking with us, Jessica and Antonio head out to the dance floor. By the time I've managed to talk John into dancing, the waltz is over. Luckily for me, John's weak spot is Latin American dancing, having gone dancing with friends many times when he was in college. And the next song is a salsa.
I'm actually quite surprised when he holds his hand out towards me and asks, "Can I have this dance?"
I jokingly pretend to consider it before saying, "Umm, let me see... sure!"
So we head out onto the dance floor and begin dancing. We start out a little slow, but we quickly catch up to the rhythm of the music. And pretty soon, watching how gracefully John moves not to mention the way my skin ignites under his touch begins to have a somewhat amorous effect on me.
My breath comes in quick, shallow pants and I can feel myself steadily growing flushed.
John looks at me with concern. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah!" I barely manage to yelp out.
"Why don't we stop dancing and go outside to get some air. You look a little flushed."
‘Oh if only you knew.' I think to myself, but answer, "That sounds like a great idea."
He leads me off of the dance floor and outside through one of the patio doors. John takes special care to shut the door behind us and then he comes up to stand a foot behind me as I gaze into the night sky.
"This is everyman's dream." John says.
I turn to face him and give him a questioning look. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm out here with the two most gorgeous things in the world. You and the night sky."
"You're so cute!" I exclaim with a laugh. Now of course I was talking about his joke, but being John McBain, he has to turn it around.
"Cute is for babies?" he asks, looking pretty perturbed.
"And that's what you are being. A big baby. I was talking about your joke."
He smiles and then I realize that he was just joking. "Gosh Evangeline, you're so easy to bait. But I wasn't joking the first time."
"You joke so much and yet you want me to take you seriously when you stay stuff. You are one mixed up man, John McBain."
"Mixed up, but very sweet and very sexy and a great dancer." I say in a lower and more serious tone. He looks at me for a while before leaning in and kissing me softly, but passionately. If he keeps going on like this, I might not be able to stand it.
We pull away from each other, but before either of us can say anything, something distracts me. I walk towards the patio doors and pull them open, listening hard to the music that I hear.
"That is the oddest thing." I say out loud.
Poor John must think I'm going batty as he asks, "What is the oddest thing?"
"They're playing Pachelbel's Canon in D. The song that brides normally walk down the aisle to."
John smiles and once again hold out his hand towards me, inviting me to dance with him once again. "Come on. We can make the song our own. Make it mean something different."
I grin and take his hand, taking a deep breath when he draws my body close to his. As we're dancing, I feel like I haven't felt in a very long time. More precisely on the night I turned sixteen. As I danced the first dance with my father, I felt like the butterflies that they release when the music started, free to do as I pleased and happy and safe and secure and most of all loved. When the song ended, my father looked into my eyes and said, "You'll always be my baby girl and I'll love you no matter what." And at that moment, my heart swelled with the sense of love and belonging.
Which is exactly how I feel now. And that confuses me, because I'm not ready for love. Not again. Every man I've ever given my heart to has either left me or broken it. And while I know Daddy is looking down on me all the time, making sure that his Baby Girl is safe, it still doesn't make it hurt any less to think that my father never got to live to see me marry or have kids. Or that he just plain isn't here. And well the person that broke my heart, let's just say, I was young and I fell hard and fast for him. And he waited until I had professed my love for him to tell me that he couldn't see us having a romantic relationship. The narcissistic bastard.
By the time the song is over, I have headache from trying to sort this out. And then I realize that I'm trying to control my destiny again. I'm trying to control how I feel about a certain person, knowing full well that it's impossible.
John pulls back, giving me a soul searching look before asking, "You trust me right?"
I nod mutely, trying to figure out where he's getting to; if he was reading my mind. "With my life."
And it's true, I do trust him with my life. Aha! I've just had an epiphany. If I can trust him with my life, which once broken cannot be put back together; why not trust him with my heart which can be put back together?
He smiles then, almost as if he is reading my mind. "Then come with me. I have something I want to show you."
"It would be rude to leave the ball after just one dance."
"We're coming back, I promise."
"Fine. Lead the way."
As we're walking back inside, I realize how suggestive it would seem if we left the ball after being outside by ourselves for the last twenty minutes. John must have been thinking the same thing because he nudges me in the small of my back and says, "Meet my by the car in twenty minutes." before slipping away.
I grin, and can't help but wonder what crazy scheme he has now. I walk around the ballroom, greeting the many inhabitants of Llanview. Just as I'm opening my purse to check what time it is for the tenth time, Nora walks right over to me with a huge grin on her face.
"Hey, I haven't seen you all night, where have you been?" I ask her.
"Let's just say that wherever I was, I was warm, safe and having lots of fun."
"Do me a favour Nora? Never volunteer that kind of information to me again?"
"Yeah whatever you say. So why are you grinning like you just won the lottery?"
I look up at the clock on the wall and realize that John must be getting worried, as more than twenty minutes have passed. "Nora, I promise I'll tell you everything later, just please let me go before John organises a search party to come and find me."
She laughs and waves me on, and I practically run out of the ballroom. I meet John halfway to the car, it's obvious that he was coming back to look for me.
"Hey, I'm sorry you had to wait, but I got held up."
He smiles. "No problem."
We walk back to the car silently, though I glance occasionally sideways at John. When we get into the car, John hands me a scarf and quietly says, "Put this on."
"Okay, this one is going to require an answer. This isn't one of these scenes from a horror movie where the minute the girl puts on the blindfold, the guy kills her, is it?"
He just gives me a look. "Evangeline."
"Fine. I was just joking anyway." I mutter as I tie the scarf around my eyes.
Even without the use of my eyes, I can tell that he is smiling.
After ten minutes, the car finally stops. John comes around to my side of the car and opens the door, helping me out.
"Okay, you can take off the scarf now." I untie the scarf and look around, bewildered.
"We're at the dock."
"Great observation counselor." he says, smiling.
"Are you gonna kill me now? Because I must warn you, I'm an excellent swimmer."
"You're so hilarious."
I grin. "I aim to please."
He smiles, but then almost immediately, he becomes serious. "I have something that I want to talk to you about."
Uh-oh. I'm guessing this is when he says that this thing has run its course and that we're better off as friends. I try to look brave and pretend that my heart isn't about to break into a million and one pieces.
He pulls a small, flat book out of his pocket and beckons me closer to him.
Curiosity gets the best of me and I ask, "What is that?"
"Are you going to tell me what this has to do with anything?"
He hands me the album and says, "Open it."
When I do, I see pictures of John with a woman with russet curls. "I'm confused. You're seeing someone else?"
"No. I would never do something like that. This is Caitlin."
"And you're showing me these because..."
"I'm showing you these because these are what have kept me from moving on all these years. These represent all the regrets I ever had. And we're at the dock because I'm getting rid of every single one of them. Water is the source of all life. Life begins and ends with water. And I hope that throwing these pictures in the water will signal the end of my old life and the beginning of a new me. By doing this, I hope that I'm eliminating every regret I might have had in the future."
He takes all the pictures out of their sleeves and rips them in half, scattering them across the water.
"You said that you wanted to talk to me."
"That'll come. I have something I want to give you. Can I see your hand for a minute?"
I hold out my hand uncertainly. He reaches into his pocket and takes out a piece of string, which he places in my palm.
"You gave me a piece of string." I say incredulously. "Thanks. I guess?"
He smiles and begins tying the string around my wrist.
"Is this some sort of new fashion trend I'm not aware of?"
He smiles. "Yeah, I'm going kabbalah. All the kids on the west coast are doing it. No, you said you weren't comfortable with the ‘no strings' situation."
"My phone message."
The phone message. Two days ago, I saw him talking to Natalie and I felt a twinge of jealousy. And I realized that I wouldn't be feeling jealous if I really wanted us to have no strings. So I called and left a message saying that I wasn't entirely sure I was comfortable with the no strings situation. I didn't think that he'd gotten it, because he hadn't said anything about it.
I just realized something. He's not breaking us off! But before I start getting my hopes up too high, I want to make sure.
I lean closer to him and whisper, "Are you saying that you're ready for a relationship, strings and all?"
He holds up his wrist, where there's a string tied to his wrist identical to mine. "Strings and all."
I let out a relieved breath and grin. "I was so sure you wanted to break it off with me."
"See that would be another regret. I mean, who wouldn't be sorry if they gave up someone as amazing as you?"
"You're pretty amazing yourself."
He smiles and kisses me softly. I kiss him back for a few seconds before a thought makes me pull away abruptly.
"You didn't do this because you feel pressured by me, did you? Because I wouldn't want you to not be ready for a relationship and start one because you think that's what I would want."
"No I didn't. I had been thinking about this for a long time before you actually said something. You just gave me the push I needed. I realized that you're a smart, beautiful woman who I trust with the things I hold closest to me. And the fact that you trust me a lot too, made me realise that maybe we'd both be shortchanged by not giving a proper relationship a chance. And the more I thought about, the more that I realized that I hadn't thought about Caitlin in a very long time and that meant that I was finally able to move on."
I grin and ask, "So does this mean we're going steady now? Do I get the honour of wearing your varsity jacket?"
He laughs and shakes his head. "While I don't have a varsity jacket for you to wear, it does mean that, in your own words, we're ‘going steady'."
"I'm glad. I'm really and truly very happy right now."
"That's great. Are you ready to go back now?"
"Do we have to?"
"If it makes you feel any better, I didn't want to go in the first place. It's only because it was in honour of Viki why I went."
I smile. "And I suppose it would be awfully rude. Alright, let's go back."
He smiles and takes my hand and pulls me up off of one of the crates I was sitting on and wraps his arm around my waist. I do the same to him and we walk off towards the car.
Is it just me, or do the stars look different? I glance at John and he seems to be thinking the same thing.
"The stars look brighter now than they did when we were on the patio at the Palace." I comment.
"Just like our future." he says with a grin. I grin back at him and tighten my hold on him. Yes indeed, this was well worth it.