"Please, please, please tell me that you're packed already?!", is the first thing that I hear when I pick up the phone.
"Evangeline?" Okay, that was a dumb question, but I was just frightened out of a particularly nice and much needed nap by the ringing phone.
"What did you forget my voice already? Or were you planning on taking a trip with someone other than me?"
I laugh. "No, it's just that you woke me up and I'm not always alert when I'm woken up."
Just the tiniest hint of panic slips into her voice as she asks, "You mean that you're not packed yet?"
"Of course I'm packed. My bag is sitting by the door waiting for me to go."
"We have to leave in the next hour or we're going to get stuck in traffic and I promised Allie that we'd meet her for dinner in the city for five thirty."
"Ok, I'm leaving right now. I'll see you soon."
We hang up and I zip up my duffel bag and pick it up, taking a last look around my room before going out the door. I must admit that I'm more than a little nervous about this weekend.
Evangeline and I are driving up to New York City to go to her cousin's Sweet 16 party. Obviously included in this weekend's activities is meeting not just her mom, but her whole family. And while I do look forward to meeting her family, I'm still worried about what they'll think of me.
A few weeks ago, Evangeline and I talked about how our being of two different races could affect our relationship. We both agreed that we didn't think that should have anything to do with how our relationship goes, no matter what anyone else may think. And almost as if God was testing us to make sure that we weren't lying to ourselves, Evangeline got attacked by some deranged bigot because he saw her with me. I have to admit that I reverted back to my old ways for a few seconds and completely flipped out.
But anyone who was in my position would probably feel the same way. Evangeline is normally so calm and collected and unflappable, so seeing tears rolling down her face and looking small and defeated nearly split my heart in two. And it's ridiculous that someone could be like that in this day and age.
The one good thing that came out that night was that Evangeline and I brought our relationship to a whole new level. And having her stay with me for the two days after was something that I could have easily gotten used to. I'm way to far gone to stop it and even if I could, I doubt that I would. I'm falling for Evangeline Williamson, hard and fast.
These thoughts have led me out the hotel, into my car and on to the street and now I'm pulling up in front of Evangeline's condo. I get out of the car and before I can get up to the door, Evangeline pulls it open and starts dragging her bags to the car. And no, I'm not exaggerating. She has two duffel bags, a garment bag and a weekend bag. I can't help it, I have to say something.
"Are you planning on moving to New York?"
She looks up and gives me a confused look. "What?"
"You have a lot of bags for just the weekend."
"Not everyone can be a light packer like you are."
She starts walking back towards the door, causing me to say, "Please don't tell me there are more bags inside."
"Then I won't."
I roll my eyes and, after closing the car door, trail after her. The sight that greets me at the door shocks me. Evangeline's normally tidy entryway has jackets strewn across the floor and half of Evangeline is sticking out of the closet door.
"What happened in here?"
"I can't find my jacket and I have no idea where I put it and now that I've thrown all of my jackets out of the closet, I lost something else and I can't figure out what it is or why it's important." she says in one huge breath. She runs her hand through her hair the way she does when she's getting frustrated, or nervous or both. And I thought that I was nervous.
The situation is sort of funny and I begin to crack a smile, but a glare from Evangeline smothers any thought of that.
"It's not funny and if you laugh I swear, I'll have a nervous break down."
I put a comforting hand on her shoulder and say, "Take a deep breath." She does, looking uncertain the whole time.
"Okay, if you're looking for your pink jacket, you put that in the car already," I spot a gift bag tag peeking out from under neath the mess and pick the bag up. "And I'm pretty sure this is what you're looking for. I guess it's a gift."
She shakes her head and smiles. "I really have no idea why I'm so nervous, I mean it's not like I've never met my family before. Then again, knowing them, I have a reason to be really nervous."
"I'm sure that they are not as bad as you think they are and I'm sure that this weekend will go better than you expect it to."
"Okay, since you're so sure. Let's go, before we end up being late."
"That's a great idea."
I grab her purse off of the hall table and hand it to her as she passes me on her way out the door. We get into the car and it's off to New York we go.
It's a relatively quick and quiet drive to downtown Brooklyn because Evangeline fell asleep almost as soon as I started driving. She's had a very tiring and rough week and I'm glad to see that she's taking some rest. I think that this weekend with her family will really do her some good.
As I circle the neighbourhood the hotel is in, I realize that it might have been better to take the train from Pennsylvania, like Evangeline said we should. There's no parking anywhere and I hate having to leave my car in parking garages, but unfortunately I have to do it. I look for a parking garage that's relatively close to the hotel and pull into it.
Ah, now for the wonderful task of waking Evangeline up. That I know from experience takes fifteen minutes in itself because she keeps saying that she's up and going back to sleep the next second. After some gentle tugging, I finally manage to waker her up.
She stretches and looks around before turning to me and asking, " I slept the whole way to New York?"
"Yeah, you seemed pretty tired. But we're three blocks away from the hotel now and we have to be at the restaurant in the next hour and a half, so we should get a move on."
Evangeline agrees and we take all of our bags out of the car and head to the hotel to check in. I leave Evangeline standing by the elevator while I go pick up our suite key. I wanted to do something special, so instead of getting a regular room, I splurged and got her the second biggest suite in the hotel. And from the pictures I've seen, the room is absolutely gorgeous and I'm sure that she'll love it.
Sure enough, when we get upstairs and into our room, she's rendered speechless. For a few seconds anyway. When she finally picks her bottom jaw up from the floor she turns around and says, "This is wonderful, John. You really went out of your way." and hugs me tightly.
"Well since you won't treat yourself like the queen that you are, someone has to do it."
"Where did you come from?" she asks me.
I decide to joke around to lighten the mood. "You know, when a man and a woman fall in love, they get married and decide to start a family – hey, aren't you going to stop me?", I ask, noticing her listening to me intently.
"Nope, I figured that you would eventually stop."
And she does the most childish thing she can do, stick her tongue out at me. And even though I think it's cute, I wonder if I'll think it's cute a few years from now when our kids are doing it.
I look at my watch and realize that we only have a little bit of time to get ready before we go into the city to meet Evangeline's cousin, so I start to look through the mess of bags, trying to locate my stuff. And in the middle of it I realize what I just thought to myself a minute ago and snap up, which only results on me banging my forehead on the doorknob.
"Son of a ...!" I exclaim, causing Evangeline to look up sharply.
"I banged my head on the doorknob... but I'm okay." I say before she can start fussing. I swear she's worse than my mom. At least she only fusses when I'm bleeding or really sick. Not that I'm complaining or anything. It feels good to have someone take care of me for once.
"Well if you're sure, I'm going to hop in the shower. If you hear screaming don't be worried, it's probably just me singing."
I just grin and roll my eyes, waving her on.
She comes out of the bathroom faster than she normally would have and I get in right after her. When I come out of the shower fifteen minutes later, is ready and waiting. She looks stunning in a creme off-the-shoulder tunic, black slacks and boots.
This is what happens when a guy has a girl for a best friend and his favourite younger cousin is a self proclaimed fashion maven. That guys turns into me. I always know the newest fashions before some women even know and unlike a lot of men, I see why wearing two different patterns is a fashion faux pas.
I quickly slip on a pair of jeans and a blue sweater and turn to Evangeline who has been standing by the door, waiting somewhat impatiently. I finish dressing and we leave the hotel hand in hand.
It's a quiet train ride until a group of teenaged girls get on the train and end up sitting right next to us. They were dressed in costume, one was a gypsy, one an Arabian princess and one was a devil. Somehow, the got from talking about the Halloween dance that they were just at to soap operas. More precisely, hot guys on their favourite soaps.
Evangeline surprises me by striking up conversation with them. It was just great to see how well she could identify with them. I don't really pay attention until I hear Evangeline say, "Personally, I think Michael Easton is the hottest guy on One Life To Live."
I turn to her and say, "Hello, remember me?", which prompts her to start laughing.
"I doubt anyone could forget you, John. You're quite the looker yourself." she replies.
One of the girls smiles and mutters, "Don't I know it."
All too soon our train ride is over and so we say goodbye to the girls and get off the train. As we walk towards the restaurant, Evangeline slips her hand into mine and squeezes gently, grinning radiantly when I look down at her.
"I take it that you are having a good time so far?" I ask.
"I am having a fantastic time and I haven't even seen any of my family yet."
"I was sort of wondering why we're meeting your cousin first, before I meet the rest of your family."
She gives me a sideways glance and grins bashfully.
"You're not going to tell me are you?"
"Nope. And besides, even if I was, we won't have the time because here we are." We come to a halt outside of a small Indian restaurant called Sonali's. When we walk in, I instantly spot Evangeline's cousin. Just like in the photo that she has on her mantle piece at home, Evangeline and Alanna look almost exactly alike. There is no mistaking that they are related. We head towards the table and when we get there, Evangeline greets her cousin and begins to make introductions.
"Allie, this is my boyfriend John. John this is the infamous Allie."
I hold out my hand towards her and say, "It's really a pleasure getting to meet you Alanna. I've heard all good things about you."
She ignores the hand that I hold out and instead draws me into a tight hug. "It's very nice to meet you too. There are two things you should know about me and our family and you'll get along with everyone just fine. Never call me Alanna, because no one does except for my boss and my co- workers. Allie is reserved for friends and family, and I'm probably going to consider you as both. And in this family, we don't do handshakes. Hugs are a must."
I smile and turn to Evangeline who is currently otherwise occupied. I didn't realize that Alanna had someone else with her until just a while ago. Evangeline is playing with an adorable little girl with caramel skin, big brown eyes and dark brown ringlets framing a chubby, dimpled face. Evangeline looks up and sees me watching them, and smiles. "John, this is Kali, Allie's daughter."
I turn to Allie and smile. "She's absolutely gorgeous." She smiles back at me, nodding in agreement while saying, "Thank you."
We all sit down and after some consideration place our orders. We sit in somewhat uncomfortable silence for a few seconds until I decide to take matters into my own hands. Besides, I'm the one who wants the "seal of approval", I figure I better work for it.
"So how about those Red Sox's? They finally broke the curse."
"Yeah and I'm pretty sure that Vangie's all worked up about it." Allie replies with a smile.
"What are you kidding me? Everyone she came across that said anything about the Yankee's losing to the Red Sox's was rewarded with her death glare, including me."
"Her death glare stopped scaring me in junior high school, so I can say what I want. It's about time the Yankee's got cut down a notch or two."
Evangeline, who up until this point had been silent, laughs and says, "Since you two are the best of friends and are bonding so nicely by making fun of me, I'm going to excuse myself."
"I'll come with you." Allie says, standing up at the same time that Evangeline does.
"You can leave Kali with John, I'm sure he won't mind." Evangeline says, giving me an angelic grin.
Allie gives me a dubious look. "I don't know."
"John is great with kids. Kali will be fine." Evangeline says, pulling Allie with her.
The minute that they disappear out of view, Kali begins to fuss. And pretty soon her fussing turns into full out crying. After shaking toys and making funny faces stop working, I decide to take her out of the high chair.
"I think that you and Evangeline have it out for me. Is that what it is, Kali?" I ask her as I gently lift her out of the seat.
She stares at me with wide unblinking eyes for a few seconds before she begins to wail again. A quick look around the restaurant is telling me that the other patrons are none too happy with me. I have two alternatives. I can go to the women's room where Evangeline and Allie are or I can just take Kali outside.
I'm an advocate of choosing the lesser of two evils, so I decide to take Kali outside. After scribbling a quick note on a napkin and bundling Kali up in her sweater, I pick her up and take her outside. I swear the other people started applauding the minute we stepped outside.
I head towards a bench I saw earlier and sit down with Kali on my lap and start singing "The Wheels On The Bus" softly to her. Pretty soon I have her laughing and clapping her hands. I can't help but mentally give myself a pat on the back.
Since my mission is accomplished, I head back into the restaurant, where I find Evangeline and Allie laughing over something. I put Kali back into her high seat and sit down next to Evangeline who turns to me and says, "You two seem to be getting along nicely."
"Yeah, well I figured that it was either go find you two or take her outside so that the other people in the restaurant wouldn't try to kill me. It turns out that Kali and I both share a fondness for the night sky and "The Wheels on The Bus"."
Allie laughs and says, "And it turns out that Kali and Evangeline both share a fondness for you.", gesturing towards Kali who is so busy staring at me, she won't eat. I must admit, I'm extremely flattered.
"Let me see if I can try." I say to Allie, who willingly hands me the spoon and jar of baby food. Evangeline and I switch seats so that I'm sitting across from Kali.
I scoop up a spoonful of the Chicken and Vegetables and sail it towards Kali's waiting mouth, while making aeroplane noises. The minute the spoon touches her lips, she closes her mouth. Okay, I should have expected that. I decide to try a different approach.
"Fine. If you don't want to eat it, then I will." I say, shrugging and turning the spoon towards myself. Almost immediately, her mouth drops open. But I'm not going to let her fool me this time, so I make silly faces and before she can realize it, the spoon is in her mouth. And as they say the rest is history.
We eat dinner relatively quickly since we still have to get back to Brooklyn and meet the rest of Evangeline's family. After paying the check and putting on our jackets, we make our way out of the restaurant.
Evangeline and I walk a few feet ahead of Allie, who has adamantly refused any help with Kali's stroller.
"You were great with Kali tonight. She normally doesn't take to strangers so quickly." Evangeline says while grinning at me.
"What can I say? Nobody can resist my boyish good looks and charm."
She punches me in the shoulder while laughingly exclaiming, "You are so full of yourself!"
"Seriously, I felt like a fish out of water when you guys left her with me."
"I knew that you'd be fine. I've seen you with Jamie before and you were a natural."
I glance at Evangeline who seems lost in her own thoughts. And I'm sure she's thinking about the many windows into our souls this trip will open up for both of us. I know I am.
We've been at Evangeline's childhood home for hours now and I feel like I've known these people for years. They all share the same warm and cheerful personalities. And there is no mistaking where Evangeline got her beauty from. Both her grandmother and her mother share the same exquisite features.
The sudden shortage of light and the scent of ‘Flowers in Springtime" pull me out of my random musing.
"If I'm lucky, it'll be Evangeline." I reply.
"Well consider yourself a lucky man." she says, removing her hands from over my eyes and perching on the arm of the chair that I'm sitting on. "I'm going to get something to eat, you want anything?"
I look at her incredulously. "Are you kidding? We ate dinner two hours ago and on the way here, you made us stop for pretzels. Twice."
"And I'm wondering where do you put it all. You had dinner and two and a half pretzels and now you're hungry again. It's unusual."
She shrugs. "Yeah, well you said that I was very unusual. And you seemed to like that fact, so stop complaining."
"I knew that was gonna come back and bite me in the a–..." I stop short, not wanting to be disrespectful. Evangeline apparently thinks that this is the funniest thing in the world.
"If you were gonna say ass, don't worry about it. Nana and Mom say it tons of times."
"Yeah well, I'm a visitor and that would be disrespectful."
She smiles and shakes her head. "Always the gentleman, I see."
"Well not always."
"That's true. You can be somewhat of a blackguard with your incessant teasing."
I fake a gasp and say, "A blackguard! Mine noble heart is hurt by your harsh words. I beg of thee, fair lady, draw back your dagger out of my heart or I shall be forced to die from the pain of it all!"
Evangeline gives me an exaggerated handclap which I respond to with an exaggerated bow. To which we both respond to by laughing. When we finally decide to act sane again Evangeline says, "So how about that snack?"
"I think that I'm gonna pass." I reply with a grimace, still trying to figure out where she puts all that food.
"Be careful, you don't want Nana to think that you don't want to try her cooking."
"I'm sure she won't think that."
"Well Nana is pretty sensitive."
"If it will make your grandmother happy..."
Evangeline breaks into a grin. "Gosh you and Nora are just so gullible. Did you know the other day, Asa convinced her that he was dying and that his dying wish was to have her and Bo remarry? And she actually fell for it! But then again, so did I."
"Asa is quite a character. I personally think that his mind is sharper than ours, but I don't get a say, so it doesn't really matter."
"Well if he can pull one over one Nora, Bo and I , he definitely does not belong in a mental ward."
"You know I have a theory that they put people in mental institutions when they start to figure out government secrets so that the rest of the world won't believe them."
Evangeline and I turn to the sound of the voice to see a short and robust elderly man standing a few feet away from us. She darts up and goes to hug him tightly, exclaiming, "Poppy!"
"Careful Vangie, I'm not the young man that I used to be." he says, while laughing and hugging her back tightly."And don't start in on me and my conspiracy theories either."
"I promise I won't... this time."
They both look at each other and begin to laugh over what I'm guessing is an inside joke because I don't get it at all. When they stop laughing, Evangeline's grandfather looks around, his eyes finally settling on me, and says, "So I'm guessing that you're the young man who's dating my granddaughter."
Before I can reply, Evangeline smiles and says, "I almost forgot. Poppy, this is my boyfriend John McBain. John, this is my grandfather, Maurice Goodman."
"It's nice to finally meet you Mr. Goodman. I've heard a lot about you." I say to him, offering my hand which he firmly grasps and shakes.
"It's nice to finally meet you too. And I can tell by the big grin on Evangeline's face that you're treating her well. Which is good, because then I won't have to put the fear of God in you.", he says with a devilish grin that is almost identical to Evangeline's grin.
"You two should get along just fine. Poppy used to be a police officer, so you should both have enough to talk about." Evangeline says as she leaves the living room.
And she's right. We do have a fairly large amount of things in common. By the time she gets back, we're into a very interesting conversation about the various colourful criminals we've come along in our line of duty.
All too soon it's time to call it a night. After saying our goodbyes to everyone, we make our way out of the house. The hotel is actually fairly close to the house and since it's a nice night, we decide to walk. Throughout the course of the night, I've noticed a change in Evangeline and I decide to say something about it.
"You know I can't help but notice how different you are with your family. You're more open and vulnerable with them and yet you're so at ease."
"Well, I'll always feel comfortable with my family. They've seen me at my worst and at my best, so there's nothing about me that they don't know."
"I know that, but it's like they have a key to the one last door of who you really are."
Evangeline is silent for a moment as she thinks about what I just said.
"I only let a few people in the world see who I really am. Very few people can claim to have met Evangeline Williamson in her entirety. I'm just glad that I have the opportunity to share this with you."
I bend slightly forward and kiss her lightly on the forehead. "So am I, Evangeline. So am I."
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