(Nine weeks after the death of Tico Santi)
John enters the door and approaches the counter. He greets Carlotta with a smile. John opens his mouth to speak, but Carlotta speaks for him.
“Large coffee, black,” she said with a smile as she began to reach for the coffee pot.
“You think you know me that well,” he asked. “I’d actually like decaf.”
“Since when did John McBain start dinking decaf,” said a familiar voice from behind. John turned around and fakes jabbing at Antonio’s shoulder. “I’ll take his coffee the. Thanks, mami,” Antonio said as his aunt/mother handed him the cup of coffee. She poured John a cup of decaf and the two went and sat at a table.
“So why are you drinking decaf,” Antonio asked again.
“Why are you calling Carlotta ‘Mami’ again,” John asked in a mocking tone.
“I’m just glad that all of this Santi mess is over. I may be a Santi by blood, but Carlotta will always be my mother. She did what she thought was best. If she hadn’t I don’t know who I would be right now. I’m just glad to have her in my life.”
“Looks like you’re getting your life back together.”
“Yeah, I just need my daughter back now.”
“RJ is just going to hand her right over?”
“I hope so. Enough about me already, so how are you doing?”
“Me? Why do you ask? I’m fine.” John was confused. Why wouldn’t he be alright? For all Antonio knew, John had almost the perfect life.”
“I just meant…well I wondered if you were feeling any guilt about Tico or anything.”
“I don’t want to sound cruel or mean, but I could careless about Tico. He was a horrible person. I’m sorry to say that about your brother, but…”
“I know. He killed our mother and father. I’m just glad that it’s over. I would like to have had another family member, but not like that. You know?”
“Yeah, I know. I thought Mikey was annoying. Oh yeah, I heard you inherited all the Santi money.”
“Yeah, umm, Adriana and I were the only living relatives so there wasn’t much choice. Adriana won’t be able to touch hers for a few years though.”
“So what are you going to do with that kind of money?”
“Pay off some old debts for starters. I want to have a memorial or something for Angelina. I just wish I had more time with her.”
“It’s hard losing a parent, but at least the money is going to a good place.”
“Definitely. How’s that kid of yours?”
With just he mention of him made John’s face light up. No matter what was going on in his life, John was always able to relax when he thought of being able to go home and see his son.
“He’s doing great. I’m helping coach Tris’ teeball team.” The two paused and laughed.
“Oh really. I’ll be that’s stress free.”
“Naturally, you only have every parent telling you what to do at all times. Tris loves it though. Just seeing him smile at every game makes it worth it.”
“How’s Evangeline doing? I know she has been acting kind of weird lately.”
John had to laugh at that comment. She had been more than just weird. John had to walk on egg shells around her. Pregnant women were moody, but Evangeline took the cake. It seemed like she was holding it in just for him. One minute she was yelling and the next she was sobbing. He was just glad that she and the baby were still okay. John noticed Antonio giving him a weird look, so he decided to explain. Evangeline had finally given him the okay to tell non-family members.
“I wouldn’t day she’s been acting weird,” John said defensively.
“Whoa, who. I was just saying.”
“No, no. Evangeline is pregnant so she’s starting with the mood swings and weird food cravings. You’ll have to just be patient with her.”
“Oh, congratulations,” Antonio said. He remembered the first time she was pregnant and how he tried to help John prepare for fatherhood. “I’ll bet Tris is really excited.” He tried to change the subject quickly. He didn’t want to make John start thinking about the past and Evangeline’s health.
“Definitely.” John smirked.
“I bet that was an interesting conversation. Did you tell him all about the birds and the bees?” Antonio laughed at the thought of John explaining that to Tristen.
“Yeah, no. Evangeline said we should be honest but not go into detail. He wasn’t concerned as much with the how as the when. Evangeline and I had to get him a count down calendar so he would stop asking if it was time yet.” The two laughed. “So, are you and Jessica thinking about kids? I’m sure Jamie would love a brother.”
“Not even. We are still finding our way back to each other. We don’t want to rush things. I want to take things day by day.”
“That’s good, I guess. Maybe it’s that ridiculous haircut.” John hated Antonio’s shaved head, and he never let him forget it.
“Yeah, the hair, right. I guess I’d better get out of here. I’m meeting RJ and Jamie in the park.
“Bye.” John watched as Antonio left the diner. “Good luck,” he mumbled. With RJ he was definitely going to need it.
(In the park)
“Daddy,” Jamie yelled as she ran and jumped into Antonio’s arms.
“Hi sweetheart,” he said as he kissed her on the check. “You’ve gotten so big now.”
“I know, daddy. Look,” she said as she held her arm out, “grandpa RJ got me a bracelet.” It was a silver charm bracelet with ponies, kittens, and puppies. “Do you like it?”
“Yes I do. I think it is beautiful.” Antonio kissed her forehead, and then his eyes met RJ’s. He had that same look on his face, one of hatred and discontent, which he always did when he saw Antonio. He blamed Antonio for Kerri’s suicide, and Antonio knew that was why he hated him. But none of that mattered to Antonio, because he was finally going to have his daughter back. That’s all that really mattered. “RJ,” he said to greet him.
“Antonio, what have we done to be honored with your presence,” RJ said sarcastically.
“I don’t think this is the right time for this conversation,” Antonio said as he held Jamie close to him. “Honey, why don’t you go play in the sandbox over there? Stay where I can see you.”
“So I guess you think this makes you a father now. She doesn’t need you Vega. I’m all that she needs.”
“I’m her father RJ. She will always need me, and intend to always be there for her.”
“Just like you were before right? Do you think you can just walk back into her life as if nothing ever happened?”
“No, I know that she will not be used to the change at first, but she will adapt children do!”
“She won’t be a child for long. She’s seven years old. Now is not the time to start shaking up her life, because you don’t know how to deal!”
Antonio clenched his jaw and tightened his fists. He was pissed. RJ was right, almost. Yes, he had not been there for Jamie, but he was not sure he could keep her safe. He wasn’t sure who he was, and he didn’t want Jamie to see him suffer. RJ was an excellent parent to her, but he didn’t need to fill that roll any more.
“Look, RJ, I really don’t care what you think. Jamie is MY daughter. She belongs with me.”
“So, to you she is just a piece of property, or do you think she’s a dog. Huh, do you think you can just drop her off at other people’s houses and pick her up when you want to. I don’t think you understand. I was the one who was there with her when she was sick. I’m the one who took her to school, helped her with her homework, read her bedtime stories, provided for her, I’m her parent now not you.”
“I will not allow her to remain in the house of a known criminal.”
“So that’s how it is. When you can’t even count on your ‘mami’, I’m there for you. I raise your daughter when you can’t deal with your life. I am not a babysitting service. I’m her grandfather, and I’ve been a far better parent than you have. If you thought that my criminal past was a problem, then why did you leave her with me in the first place?”
“I didn’t have anyone else to turn to? Carlotta could have been a target. I was not going to put Jamie in that kind of danger.”
“So by your own words, you thought she was safe with me. That’s all I need to hear. My lawyer will be in touch with you. I will be taking Jamie home with me, and if you want to see her you will have to make arrangements. I will not have you interrupting her life any longer.”
“Like hell you will,” Antonio grabs RJ by his jacket, and just as he is about to swing he feels an arm grab him from behind.
“Antonio, stop,” Evangeline shouted. “You don’t want to make trouble do you?”
“For once I would agree with her,” RJ said as he brushed Antonio’s hand of his jacket.
“Jamie is right over there. Do you think it would be good for her to see her father and grandfather fighting?” Evangeline tried two reason with the two men who were currently action like children. She glanced back toward the sandbox, but the children weren’t there. There were running around chasing each other around the sandbox when Jamie fell and scratched her knee.
“Ouch!” Jamie screamed and immediately tears followed.
Evangeline, RJ, and Antonio rushed to her side.
“Owww, it hurts really bad. I’m bleeding, daddy.”
“It’s okay sweetheart. Come on we’ll take you to see grandma and she’ll give you a band aid.”
“I don’t think so Vega. Like I said Jamie is coming home with me. Come on Jamie, I’ll get you all fixed up.”
“RJ, this isn’t called for.”
“I don’t think this is any of your business counselor. You should be more concerned about that violent brat you’re raising.”
“That’s enough RJ. Insulting children, now that’s a new low even for you.”
“I’ll just leave then.” RJ turned and walked away with Jamie in his arms. Jamie was too worried to look back.
Evangeline looked over at Antonio. He had this angry look in his face. She could tell this was the beginning of a very bad thing.
“I’m sorry Mr. Vega, I didn’t mean for her to fall,” Tris managed to get out before totally bursting out in tears.
Evangeline picked her son up and kissed his forehead. “It’s okay honey, we know you didn’t mean for her to fall. Shhh.”
“Don’t worry Tris, it’s just a little scratch on her knee, she will be fine in a couple of minutes.”
“Mommy, that man said I’m a brat…”
“Don’t worry about that. He didn’t mean it. He was just upset. Don’t cry okay.”
“Evangeline, I’m sorry for that.”
“It’s okay Antonio. It’s not your fault. What was he talking about before?”
“RJ is refusing to give me back custody of Jamie. I can’t have her raised in that kind of home. I don’t want her exposed to his criminal activity.”
“Have you hired a lawyer yet? RJ is not on to fight fair so you might want to do that as soon as possible.”
“Well, how about you? You can represent me right. You’ve helped me get out of so many difficult situations.”
“Antonio,” Evangeline started, “John and I have…”
“I have more than enough money to pay your fee. You don’t have to worry about that. I know that RJ will fight dirty that is why I need you. I don’t know any other lawyer who could do this. You are my best chance of getting my daughter back.”
“Antonio, I can’t guarantee that I will get your daughter back.” Evangeline thought back to Kelly’s custody battle. Even though it had been revealed that Tico threatened the judge, Evangeline no longer thought of her self as she used to. She had lost some confidence in herself. Her record in criminal court was still flawless, but family court was a whole different story. She hated it. Watching a family being torn apart in court was not something she liked to watch. It was a painful reminder of her childhood.
“Please, Evangeline. I need you.”
“Okay, come by my office tomorrow and we can start the paperwork.”
“Thank you so much Evangeline. I owe you big time.”
“It’s no problem, really. RJ is an excellent grandfather, but I don’t think he should be her primary caregiver.”
“I’m glad you agree.”
“Agree about what,” Natalie asked. She and Cristian walked up to the trio.
“Hey Natalie, Cris,” Evangeline said greeting the two as she gently rocked Tris.
“Evangeline agreed to represent me,” Antonio said.
“Represent you for what? I thought all the charges against you had been dropped,” Natalie said.
“Is your boyfriend still trying to cause trouble for my family?” Cristian was now staring angrily at Tris.
“Calm down Cris,” Antonio said, “all the charges against me have been dropped. Evangeline is going to help me get Jamie back from RJ.”
Cris said nothing.. He just continued to stare.
“RJ is keeping Jamie from you? I can’t believe it,” Natalie said in disbelief.
“I know, but with Evangeline’s help she’ll be back home before you know it”
“That’s good,” Natalie said.
“I guess. I’d better go. I’m supposed to be meeting Nora.” Evangeline looked at her watch, “Come by my office tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, I will.”
Evangeline began to walk off. Cristian was still watching her. She could almost feel his eyes burning a whole through her.
“Hey Evangeline,” Antonio yelled, “I hear congratulations are in order.”
Evangeline smiled as she turned around. “What are you talking about?”
“Congratulations on the new baby. I know John is really excited.”
“You’re pregnant!” Cris finally spoke. His eyes were filled with hatred. “That’s perfect. Now there’s going to be two mini-bastard McBains running around.”
“Excuse me!” Evangeline was really pissed now. She could take insults, but she was not going to let someone bash her children for no reason. “If you have a problem with John then you need to work that out with him. Our children have nothing to do with it.”
“Cris, what is wrong with you?” Antonio had only seen Cris this angry when he was in the presence of John. “Leave the kids out of this. John is a good guy alright. I know you’re upset from before, but this is just uncalled for.” Antonio was worried. What had happened to his brother that would make him lash out toward a child?
“You know what, you’re wrong, all of you. This is the perfect example of what I was talking about. Natalie and I should have kids by now. I should be excited to come home to her and our kids every night, but instead I have to start over. John ruined my life, and he ruined Natalie’s too. Now I’m supposed to be happy that he has what I should. What do you want me to do congratulate him?”
“That’s enough. I’m not going to stand here and listen to this.”
Evangeline walks away as Natalie, Cristian, and Antonio look on. Antonio and Natalie are both stunned at what they had witnessed. Who was this person? What happened to the old Cristian Vega?