The first thing that I notice when I wake up is that Evangeline isn't beside me. A quick glance at the clock tells me that it's 6:09 AM. I groan, but make no effort to try to go back to sleep, knowing that in the next hour I'm going to have to get up anyway. After making a quick detour to the bathroom, I head onto the balcony.
The sight that I'm greeted with takes my breath away. Evangeline is leaning backwards against the balustrade, lost in thought with a smile on her face and her hair whipping around her head. The sun, slowly rising and beginning to peek through the buildings around us provides the perfect backdrop.
It's a scene too perfect not to be captured and immortalized forever. So I quickly grab my camera from my duffel bag and go back outside, where the scene has changed slightly, but the effect is just as gorgeous. The flash as the camera goes off is enough to snap Evangeline out of her reverie and she looks around, a little discombobulated.
"Did you just take a picture of me?" she asks, still a little confused.
"Yep. My photography teacher in high school taught me to never miss a photo-op. And you just gave me a great one."
"You took a picture of me grinning like an idiot and staring into space with my hair flying around and in my pajamas? Are you perhaps just the tiniest bit demented?" she asks, raising her eyebrows at me.
"Well, it was a beautiful picture."
She grins. "Okay. Now I know something's wrong with you."
"Chacun à son goût."
She looks at me with a baffled expression and says, "Huh?"
"It's French for ‘To every man his own.' I assumed that you would know it since you took French for seven years."
"Hey, don't get all cocky just because you baffled me for a few minutes. I'm practically fluent in French. You just caught me off guard is all."
I smirk at her and cross my arms in front of my chest.
"Oh really? Prove it."
"Mettez rapidement votre habillement sur tu-même. Nous devons aller à la maison de mon grand-mère bientôt. Nous avons beaucoup de choses à faire."
"Okay. I'm impressed."
"I thought you would be. And since I know that you probably understood very little of what I just said, please hurry up and get ready. We have to be at my grandmother's soon because we have a lot to do today."
"You of all people shouldn't be telling me to hurry up and get ready. I take twenty minutes to shower and get dressed. You take forty-five minutes just to shower. So I'm going to give you head start while I order breakfast and get my stuff ready for tonight. And even then, I'm pretty sure you won't be done before I am."
She gives me a coy grin before saying, "We'll see about that," and skipping off to the bathroom.
She's in and out of the shower in fifteen minutes, and by the time I've finished showering, she's fully dressed and is steaming out the wrinkles in her dress.
This one is a strapless dress made of cranberry satin with sheer, shimmery black material over it. And while I have yet to see her in it, I'm pretty sure that she'll look fantastic in it.
"Well I definitely underestimated you. I really didn't think that you could get ready before me."
She finishes steaming the dress and hangs it up before she turns to me and asks, "Now that I've proven you wrong, can we please eat breakfast? I don't know about you, but I'm famished."
"I'm not all that hungry...
We both laugh as a loud rumble from my stomach says otherwise. "...Okay, so maybe I am a little hungry."
Evangeline leads me out to the balcony where she has breakfast covered up and waiting for us. She quickly fills our plates with food, and after handing me a plate, dives into her food with gusto.
"I take it you're enjoying your breakfast?" I ask, amusement colouring my voice.
"Yes, I am. You'd be too, if you were actually eating it. I don't understand how you manage to go through a day fueled by coffee alone. You're gonna get sick like that."
"Why do you worry so much about my well being? I mean, I know that you care, but still..."
A thoughtful look crosses her face as she answers slowly, "Of course I worry. Every time you go to work I worry. Because I care and you are a cop. I mean, have you ever dated a police officer?"
I laugh at this. "No, I can't say I have. And since it'll make you happy, I'll eat all of my breakfast like a good little boy."
She grins. "Good. Because I was hoping I wouldn't have to force feed you, but if push came to shove..."
"...I could be sure that you would do it."
I finish my breakfast quickly, though I had a little help with Evangeline randomly plucking things off of my plate. We tidy up the mess we made and leave the hotel. We decide to walk to her grandmother's house since it's a surprisingly balmy day for October.
On the way there, I insist on stopping at a florist shop to get flowers for Evangeline's grandmother and mother. Although Evangeline protests that I don't have to do it, I feel that I should. Besides, it's the least that I can do for the two people that played such an important part in raising a woman as incredible as Evangeline is. So I quickly purchase a bouquet of yellow roses for her grandmother and purple tulips for her mother. While Evangeline is examining a bonsai tree on the other end of the store, I buy a single white rose-her favourite flower, and give it to her after we leave. She grins and kisses me on the cheek and tucks it behind her ear while thanking me.
When we arrive, one of Evangeline's cousins lets us in. After greeting her, Evangeline turns to me and says, "John, this is Autumn, our birthday girl. Autumn, this is John, tho one you have heard so much about by now."
She turns to me and smiles. "I have definitely heard a lot about you, from Evangeline and from Nana and Aunt Toni. It's great to finally meet you. You can call me Jessie, because no one calls me Autumn. Well except for my parents when I piss them off."
"It's great to finally meet you too," I respond with a grin. "Jessie."
"So are you taking good care of my cousin?" she asks with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
I can't help but laugh, it sounds like some smart question that Shannon would ask. I glance at Evangeline, who is shooting her cousin a slightly murderous look.
"Yes I'm taking good care of your cousin, or at least I hope I am."
Evangeline meets my eyes and grins at me.
"Speaking of taking care of things, John don't you have something that you should be taking care of?" she asks me, casting a glance at the two bouquets of flowers that are still in my hands.
"Oh yeah. I almost forgot."
We all troop to the kitchen which I've noticed definitely seems to be the heart of this home. Everyone congregates here, so it's only natural that it's the first place we go to look for Evangeline's grandmother and mother. And of course we find them along with a few new relatives which I had yet to meet. After greeting them and making the proper introductions, Evangeline turns to me and says, "I'll be in the backyard, kicking Jessie's butt at basketball if you need me."
I nod and smile at her before turning my attentions back to her grandmother and mother, who are still exclaiming in delight over their flowers. After talking with them for a few minutes, I go back out into the living room, where Mr. Goodman appears to be teaching Kali the rules of soccer. And it doesn't look like it's holding her attention for very long.
I take Kali off of Mr. Goodman's grateful hands and decide to go outside and watch Evangeline and Jessie play basketball. And true to her word, Evangeline is kicking Jessie's butt at it. Kali and I sit by the door and watch them play until Jessie finally says, "Okay, okay you were right. You can still kick my butt at basketball."
Evangeline laughs as they make their way over to us and says, "Well I keep telling you not to bet with me, but you always do it. And you always lose."
"Well seeing as how today's my birthday, you could've just let me win," she grumbles.
That sounded almost exactly like something Shannon said when I took away her fake ID on her eighteenth birthday. Jessie decides to take Kali back inside, leaving Evangeline and me in the backyard. She looks at me and grins.
"Somehow, I still have this amazing burst of energy. Wanna help me get rid of it?"
I can think of other ways for her to get rid of some of that energy, but I keep my thoughts to myself and say, " I can't think of anything I would like to do more."
Yes it's a slight exaggeration, but hey...
Within a few minutes of playing I realise that Evangeline is more than just okay at basketball, she's fantastic at it. After I fail to block one of her shots, she turns to me and asks, "Oh, did I forget to tell you that on my spare time I was on the girls basketball team in middle school, high school and college?"
"Nope, you neglected to tell me that."
"Just thought I'd tell you now so that you wouldn't feel too bad about me kicking your ass at this."
"I have a version of basketball I bet you've never played before."
"Oh yeah? What is it?"
"Bandit style." I say as I grab her and throw her over my shoulder, wincing slightly from the surprised squeal she lets out.
I dribble the ball a few times before making a shot, which – without Evangeline blocking it – goes in almost perfectly.
"Hey," she exclaims hotly, "that's not fair!"
"Life generally isn't, though I'm sure you know that by now."
"I'm not kidding, let me down right this instant, John! Or else..."
"Or else what? I'll win the game and you'll lose? Because that is what I'm going for."
She lets out a derisive snort before saying, "This game doesn't count anymore. Because I highly doubt that picking up the opposing team is legal at all."
"I think that you're just trying to get me to put you down."
She's silent for a few minutes and then she says, "You know, the blood may be rushing to my head, but I'm definitely enjoying the view."
I look back to meet her devilish grin with one of my own before saying, "I'm still not going to put you down. So stop trying to butter me up."
I laugh as she whispers to herself, "And I used my best stuff too."
"If it is, you're not very good as a coquette."
"I am too! ," She replies indignantly.
"Oh yeah, real mature! You sound like a kindergartener."
She slaps me on the shoulder with what appears to be all the strength she possesses. Anyway you explain it, she hit me hard enough to surprise me immensely and cause me to drop her.
She lands with an "oof!" and stares up at me accusingly. "I can't believe you dropped me!"
"Well, you hit me first!"
"Now who starts like a kindergartener?" she asks, giving me a challenging look.
"I'm gonna have to get you back for that one," I say, giving her a mock threatening look and advancing towards her.
She scrambles to her feet, skipping away from me and finally breaking into a full run towards the house, looking back every few seconds to check how close I am to her. I chase her back into the house and into the living room, where Jessie sits playing with Kali and staring, bewildered, at us. Before she can ask us what's going on, a loud voice thunders down the stairs, causing Evangeline and I to come to a complete stop.
"Autumn Jessenia Monroe and Evangeline Lisette Williamson! If you two break anything, you'll both be in trouble. And don't go thinking that you're too old to be spanked because you know I'll do it."
Jessie tries to protest her innocence, but Evangeline silences her with an elbow in the ribs as she calls out, "We'll stop, Nana."
We're all silent for a few moments before I turn to Jessie who's sulking – with good reason– and say, "For what it's worth, I don't think that your Nana would hurt a fly. But if she will, I'll take your spanking for you. Hopefully it won't hurt too much."
A broad grins spreads across both hers and Evangeline's faces, despite their futile attempts to stop it.
"Well I guess it was worth getting into trouble for. It was a pretty hysterical sight and besides, I haven't seen that side of Evangeline in years. It was a welcome sight."
I grin at her and say, "Always glad to be of service. It makes me proud that I have the ability of making the worst in anyone come out."
Evangeline frowns and says, "Don't start. I know for a fact Nana wont spank us but I will throttle you if I get yelled at. Imagine, me getting threatened to get spanked at my age."
"Well in my defense, you started it."
If looks could kill...
I sit thinking for a while before turning to Evangeline and asking, "Lisette?"
I should have learned from the football incident at the dock. The woman has a good throwing arm. I quickly decide that staying quiet might play an important role in my getting back to Llanview in one piece. And besides, I know she isn't really mad at me, so why annoy her until she really does get mad?
See? Who said I wasn't smart?
The rest of the afternoon passes without incident . We watch a tape of one of Evangeline's ballet recitals and have lunch with the rest of her family. As was expected, there was some ribbing from her family members, especially her cousins, but Evangeline gave as good as she got.
Pretty soon, it was time to start getting ready for Jessie's Sweet Sixteen. Since it is being held in one of the ballrooms at the Brooklyn Marriot, which is where Evangeline and I are staying, we decide to go back to the hotel to get ready and meet up with the rest of her family.
While Evangeline showers, I turn the TV on to a Halloween special. I'm one of those people that talk to the television and just as I was yelling at the cheerleader who opens the locker, "What a moron!" I hear a chuckle behind me.
"You do know that screaming at the television doesn't make that much of a difference?"
"The world is a funny place. Who woulda thought that two workaholics who talk to television screens could get along?"
"A match made in heaven."
"A match made in hell according to Nora the last time we watched a movie with her."
I grin and wink at her. "I always thought that devils were hotter than angels."
"They're supposed to be hotter, they live in Hell."
"Good point." I say as I pass her on my way to the bathroom. When I get out of the shower Evangeline is beginning to get ready. When she realises that the bathroom is free, she grabs her stuff and darts into the bathroom flashing me a bashful grin.
Fifteen minutes later, we're both dressed and I may be a little biased, but Evangeline looks stunning. She blushes as I peruse the length of her body, duly noting the way the dress accentuates her curves. She's wearing a pair of strappy black sandals and has a small purse that matches them. A pair of diamond studs glitter in her ears which makes me notice what exactly is different about her. Her hair is pulled back in a neat chignon with a few strands of hair loose to softly frame her face.
"Y-you look fantastic." I finally manage to say to her. And she does.
She beams at me before replying, "Thank you. You look pretty good yourself."
"Pretty good?!" I ask, feigning indignance.
She laughs. "Ok, you look fantastic too, but I didn't want to say that because then you'd get a big head."
I give her my best ‘who me?' look before asking, "You ready to go?"
"Give me a minute." she replies, pulling out a tube of red lipgloss and applying it. Before she puts it back in her purse, I take it from her and begin to inspect it.
"Evangeline can I ask you a question?" I ask as we walk down the hallway to the elevator.
"Why do women buy lipgloss that guarantees to make their lips ‘utterly kissable' and then if someone were to kiss them they get upset because then they have to reapply it? What sense does it make?"
She smiles. "I think that's a question that even women ask. I doubt that it will ever be answered. And besides, I've never minded having to reapply my lipgloss after you kiss me."
I give her an impish look. "That's one of the things I like about you the most."
She rolls her eyes. By this time, we've arrived at the hotel ballroom and our conversation is cut short as Evangeline introduces me to the family and family-friends that I've yet to meet. And directly after that, Jessie drags us around introducing us to her many friends. Evangeline and I are amused to find that the girls that we met on the train are being introduced to us a Jessie's best friends, Jeanette, Briana and Leah.
They grin when Jessie introduces us and say in almost one voice, "We've met."
"Then you won't need me to tell you that they're more than a little crazy.", Jessie says.
They grin good- naturedly. We stand chatting with them for a while until it's time for Jessie, Jeanette, Leah, Briana, and Evangeline to go. Before the actual party was to begin, Jessie decided that she wanted to have a few coming of age ceremonies from around the world and from different faiths and that she wanted her friends and family members to take part in them. Evangeline was part of a court of fifteen attendants and had to light a candle– one for every year of Jessie's life, with Jessie lighting the sixteenth– and present Jessie with her Last Doll. The ceremonies were quite informative and some were even funny. The party started officially as Jessie danced her last dance as a little girl with her father.
I glance over at Evangeline who is by now sitting next to me, and am somewhat surprised to see that she's crying. And then I realise that she's probably remembering her own Sweet Sixteen where she had done the same thing with her father. And I just had a feeling that watching all of those home videos would have a melancholic effect on her.
I reach over and give her hand a comforting squeeze causing her to give me a weak smile.
And fortunately by the time that the dance is over, she's smiling again and trying to talk me into heading out to the dance floor. Eventually she manages to talk me into it – like it was really that hard– and drags me away from the table amidst some joking from her cousins. Apparently they think I'm scared to get on the dance floor. Hmm.
I like to think that I'm pretty good at dancing and I know for a fact that Evangeline is a great dancer. She can detect the rhythm of anything we're dancing to and she has a lot of energy. A lot. After five songs, I'm starting to fell winded, but she's just getting started. I decide to go hang out with Evangeline's younger cousins, who seem to be the only ones smart enough to stay away from the dance floor. So when Evangeline finally tires herself out, she is surprised to find me on the floor with at least three little kids hanging off of me. Literally.
And the thing that surprises me the most is that unlike most women, instead of scolding or teasing me, she gets right in the floor beside me. Then again, I shouldn't be surprised. She isn't like most women and I like that about her. The shriek of her cousins laughing as Evangeline tickles them draws me out of my thoughts and I join in on the fun.
Eventually, we get found out and told off thoroughly by Evangeline's mother. I can't say I blame her. After all, by the time she got to us, we all look quite disheveled. Evangeline and I straighten our clothes and then fix her cousins clothing. In a matter of minutes everyone looks more or less like they did when they walked in.
Evangeline and I spend most of the evening under Mrs. Williamson's watchful eyes. When Allie notices she laughs and says to Evangeline, "When do you ever learn? Every time you do that Aunt Toni and Nana ream you out. Don't you think that it's time to grow up?"
"I will if you will." she replies with a grin. I just shake my head.
As the end of the evening draws near, Evangeline and I find ourselves in the dance floor yet again, this time dancing to My Boo. Evangeline and Jessie are both big fans of Usher and there were a lot of his songs played tonight.
After that, a few more fast songs were played and then the DJ started to choose slower selections. During one of the slower songs, I noticed Jessie talking to the DJ and gesturing towards us but I didn't make anything of it. That is, until the sone changed abruptly from an instrumental to At Last by Etta James.
I peer at Evangeline who has an amused look on her face. "Did you notice that the songs just abruptly changed and there's almost no one but us on the dance floor?"
"Jessie's idea of a joke. Just go along with it. If we react it'll be what she wanted."
"You have to admit that it's pretty funny."
"Yes, it is."
"And I have to admit that now that we're the only ones still dancing and everyone is watching us, I have stage fright."
Even so, I twirl her out and back in before she says, " Trust me, you'll have so much fun you won't even notice."
She's right. When the song is over, Evangeline curtsies to me and I bow to her and we turn to face our audience amidst thunderous applause. Once we get off of the dance floor, we go searching for Jessie, who we find rather quickly. It's hard not to. She's practically falling off of the chair she's in, she's laughing so hard. Evangeline may have planning to tell her off, but she just ends up laughing as hard as Jessie is.
"You guys should have seen the looks on your faces!" she manages to let out, finally.
"It's not funny!" Evangeline protests.
"It might be a little easier to make that argument if you weren't laughing so hard." I offer helpfully.
She turns to glare at me, but instead ends up breaking into a grin. "What was the big idea of the joke anyway, Jessie. Because I really don't get it."
"Neither do I."
Jessie has finally stopped laughing enough to be able to explain it to us. "Well I thought that the song was fitting because at last Vangie has a man. For the past year and a half, I've had a more existent love life than she has. We were beginning to think that maybe we should have sent her to a convent."
I'm struggling to keep a straight face while Evangeline tries to figure out how exactly to respond to that.
"I don't know whether to kill you or laugh until I cry. You're lucky I love you or I'd be choosing to kill you."
"Thanks cuz." Jessie says, giving Evangeline a quick peck on the cheek. As she skips off, Evangeline calls after her, "Just don't do it again!"
"What a day." I say, turning towards her with a grin.
"Yeah. I'm starting to regret introducing you to Jessie. Now I have make sure you guys are never out of my sight because I know that you'll both be trying to find new ways to drive me nuts."
"You mean nuttier than you already are."
She whacks me in the shoulder with her pocketbook exclaiming, "Hey! You take that back."
"I'm sure that you're parents taught you to always tell the truth no matter what."
"You're a glutton for punishment. But then again, maybe I am nuts. Just look at who I'm involved with."
"You're either mistaken or I'm jealous."
"To tell the truth I don't know how to respond to that without getting myself in trouble. So I'm just going to change the subject. Are you enjoying yourself?"
"Definitely. More than I expected to anyway."
"You may not like it, but there are some perks in getting all dressed up."
"Oh yeah? I'd like to hear one."
She leans closer towards me with that familiar devilish glint in her eyes. I can't wait to hear this.
"It just feels that much better when I take them off for you."
Without waiting for me to respond, she moves towards where her mother and grandmother are beckoning to her, leaving me standing with my mouth half open.
Oh yeah. I definitely like dressing up now.
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