Chapter 2

Natalie Vega sat on the edge of the bed, frowning as she watched Cristian finish dressing. Her husband had made it clear he wanted to go the therapy appointment alone but Natalie has never been a person to back down from anything she wanted, and right now she wanted to be completely in the loop with Cristian and his doctor regarding his treatment.

"Cristian, let me go with you for your first appointment with Dr. Barnes. He may want to ask me some questions too."

Cristian’s back visibly stiffened and his hands paused in the task buttoning his shirt as he suppressed an outburst. He had been mistaken in believing that agreeing to undergo psychiatric treatment would get his wife to stop pressuring him. At moments like these he thought it had been a mistake for him to return to Llanview, but his love for Natalie left him few options. If only she would give him more time to adjust to being back home, Cristian was sure he would be able to make it work between them again. However more than anything he wanted to escape the pressure of being "like Cristian again" and just figure out who he was now. Sighing, he said, "Natalie, I'm not a child where my guardian has to be with me for a doctor’s appointment. I'm going to the psychiatrist to try and figure out what's wrong with me. I'm not going to skip out on the appointment and not go, if that's what you’re thinking."

"It would just be easier for you if I went with you, for support," Natalie explained, persisting in hope that Cristian would relent and let her accompany him. "I just want to help you in any way I can so we can get back to the life we had before you went away."

Cristian walked to the bed and pulled Natalie to her feet, and held her in an embrace as he continued talking. "That may not happen for a long time, if ever. You are not the same person I married more than a year ago and even after seeing a doctor I won’t be the old Cristian. Those people are gone Natalie and you need begin to accept it. I'm seeing this doctor because it will make you happy and also because I want to go forward with my life, our life together."

"I want that too Cristian. I love you so much."

"Then just be patient with me as I work through this," he pleaded. "It will take more than one or two doctor’s appointments to fix things. Are you willing to give us time and not to expect overnight changes or miracles?"

"You know I will Cristian. I've waited more than a year for you to come back to me so I can certainly wait a bit longer to regain what we've left behind."

Cristian’s stomach tightened in a knot upon hearing Natalie’s last words. Why was she so fixated on things being like they were before he left? Just the pressure of meeting her expectations had a suffocating effect on him. Leaving to go to the psychiatrist appointment would be a relief from the constant pressure. Upon giving Natalie a quick kiss on the forehead, Cristian made his exit.


The sharp, rapid clicks of the Dolce and Gabbana shoes on the hospital floor prompted Michael McBain to lift his eyes from the paperwork at the nurses’ station. A wide grin was on his face as he watched Evangeline walk towards him. From her typically impeccable business attire he knew she was at the hospital for business reasons, but he couldn't resist greeting his friend with a teasing remark.

"You're too good and expensive a lawyer to be ambulance chasing. What brings you to the hospital?"

Laughing, Evangeline explained, "I'm here to get a deposition from a hospital patient who's unable appear in court, for your information. Ambulance chasing indeed!"

Having arrived early for the deposition, Evangeline exchanged some lighthearted verbal spars with Michael. She was happy to hear that he was making headway in his relationship with Marcie and proceeded to try and arrange an upcoming dinner date with Marcie and Michael. As he was on the verge of replying, Michael noticed John exiting the elevator and approach them. John placed his index finger to his lips signaling Michael not to alert Evangeline of his presence. While Evangeline continued to throw out possible times for a foursome date, John smoothly encircled his arms around the lovely attorney’s waist and nuzzled his nose in her hair.

"John." Evangeline released a sigh when she realized John was there and covered his hands with hers.

"Hey," John said using his standard greeting. "I've been missing you."

"Hmmm," Evangeline murmured, echoing the sentiment as she settled in his embrace. "It is a sure sign we have to make time for each other when we only cross paths during the days as we're on our way to meetings."

"Well, let's arrange a private meeting tonight for the two of us at the Palace restaurant." More than anything John wanted some serious downtime with Evangeline tonight. He had planned to call her later in the afternoon but this chance meeting at the hospital allowed him to see his lady and make the date at the same time.

"I was in the process of organizing a double date with Michael and Marcie. Maybe we all can meet tonight," suggested Evangeline.

Evangeline's back was to John and she couldn't see John silently mouthed the words, "Not a chance; no way tonight." Fighting a burst of laughter, Michael took pity on his older brother and suggested another evening for the foursome get-together.

Evangeline glanced at the wall clock and said, "Listen, you two work it out. I should get going to my meeting. Turning to John she smiled and said, "I'll see you later tonight." At that moment Cristian Vega walked towards to nurses’ station. His pace slowed considerably once he recognized John and then abruptly he began walking swiftly and passed the trio without saying a word. John and Evangeline kissed and she headed down the corridor. Within a minute she caught up with Cristian who was looking at the floorplan on the wall that illustrated the office locations on that particular hospital floor. From the puzzled look on his face it was obvious he was looking for an office and not being very successful in doing it.

"This wing of the hospital is especially confusing," Evangeline commented. "I'm not trying to be nosy but do you need any help in finding something?"

"I'm looking for office 480."

"Here it is on the map. Actually it is almost around the corner from the patient’s room I'm going to now, room 492." Evangeline pointed out the location on the map.

Cristian observed that Evangeline didn't make the obvious suggestion that they’d walk together. Considering how brisk he'd been with her recently, her reticence really didn't surprise him. For some reason he had an impulsive desire to see her smile so he smiled shyly himself and offered, "Well, maybe we can walk together so neither one of us will get lost." Instead of a smile, Cristian was rewarded with Evangeline’s slightly startled expression. He quickly faked a cough and raised his hand to his mouth to hide the grin he couldn't suppress. Murmuring her agreement to his unexpected suggestion, Evangeline started walking along side Cris down the hallway. Preferring to talk rather than walk in silence, partly to take his mind off the upcoming session with the psychiatrist, Cristian challenged Evangeline by asking, "You know, for a lawyer you don't ask a lot of questions."

"Why do you say that?" Evangeline responded, tilting her head as she gave Cris a sidewards glance.

"You've mentioned why you're here at the hospital but you haven’t asked me why I was here or whom I'm going to see," Cristian said in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.

"I assume you’re here to talk to someone about your adjustment back here in Llanview but it's really none of my business. You made that very clear to me the day at your art exhibit when I offered to help you find someone."

Upon being reminded of his hostile behavior towards a woman who had been sympathetic to his plight, Cristian offered a long overdue apology. "I'm sorry. I remember that night and the pressure I was under, but it was no excuse for how I acted with you. I'm surprised that you're even speaking with me or at the very least that you didn't mention it to McBain. You didn't mention it, did you? Otherwise he would have been in my face about it."

Evangeline slowly replied, "No, I didn't tell John. I don't know you well but I can only imagine what you've been through and how hard your adjustment is now. People with much less intense issues seek help and it's a good thing that you’re finally doing it now."

Cristian conveyed some of his apprehension by stating, "I've never been to a psychiatrist in my life."

Being careful to stare straight ahead and not gaze directly at her walking companion, Evangeline spoke softly saying, "It isn't that bad. And quite often it really can be helpful."

Cristian stopped walking, forcing Evangeline to stop also and turn to look at him. "If I didn't know better it almost sounds as if you’re speaking from personal experience."

Nodding ever so slightly, Evangeline confessed, "I am." Never in a million years could Evangeline imagine sharing such personal information with someone whom she barely knew, but thinking her experience would aid Cristian, she decided to let him briefly enter past the perfect image she consciously presents in public.

"In college I had a hard time adjusting to being away from home, meeting the expectations of my family, and dealing with an abusive boyfriend who was certain to become a wife beater," Evangeline paused, and watched as an expression of amazement spread across Cristian's face. "It only took about six months for me to talk to someone professionally and get my life back on track. The important thing is to pick someone who's good and whom you can trust and to stick with it as long as it takes." Lightly touching his hand, Evangeline froze for a few seconds, surprised to feel a physical and emotional connection with the temperamental young man who had listened to her so intensely.

Cristian used his other hand to sandwich Evangeline's hand between his own and remarked, "Thanks for the advice. I really mean it." He recognized right away that Evangeline was going far outside her comfort zone to help him deal with his problems, and the generous gesture affected him deeply. She wasn't doing it to feel good about herself or to get a certain reaction from him; she was simply doing something to help him. The approaching footsteps of a doctor made them aware of their surroundings again and they continued walking toward their destination. A somewhat awkward silence between them remained until they reached room 480, Dr. Barnes’s office.

Upon giving Cristian a last word of encouragement, Evangeline turned and started walking away. After several seconds she glanced over her shoulder and fully expected to see that Cristian was gone. Instead he was still standing at the office door, not moving. Her heart really did go out to him at that moment. Evangeline couldn't begin to imagine the experiences that Cristian was fearful of revisiting; she too would have been afraid to enter that office. Not hesitating, she joined him again at the office door.

"Hey," she said as she made an invitation, "my meeting shouldn't last more than an hour and then I'm heading for lunch. Would you like to join me?"

"You’re putting yourself out there quite a lot for me today, aren't you?" Cristian saw Evangeline’s face flush. He hadn't meant to embarrass her with his observation and he quickly said, "Yes, I would like that very much."

"O.K. If I finish first I will come back here and will wait for you. If you finish first come to room 492."

"I'll look forward to it." Finally placing his hand on the door knob, Cristian opened the door and entered the psychiatrist's office.