Chapter Twenty Four:

ÖÖ "When did this happen?" Kevin thought to himself. "When did I get myself involved with a cold blooded killer?" ÖÖÖ..

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving and Evangeline was headed to the police station to see Marcie. She had tried as hard as she could to get Marcie to come to her office, but with school, work, the Love Center, and the book, Marcie didnít have the time. Evangeline hadnít seen or talked to John since that Wednesday after court. She thought that going to Pittsburgh and spending some time with her Mom would make the emptiness go away, but it hadnít. If it was possible, she missed John even more now. "When did this happen?" she thought. "When did my life end up so empty and sad? No, no, no, I have to get out of this mood. I am doing the right thing."

Evangeline had checked with Marcie to make sure that John was not at the station, but as she walked in to the busy middle area where Marcieís desk was, she was a little apprehensive. When Marcie spotted Evangeline, she started to smile. "Hey Evangeline," Marcie said.

"Hey Marcie," Evangeline replied. "Is it safe?" she asked tentatively.

"Johnís not here," Marcie said. "Heís at court."

"Okay," Evangeline replied with a sigh. On the one hand, she was glad that he wasnít there because seeing him and not being with him was torture. On the other hand, she missed him.

"You know, Evangeline," Marcie slowly approached the subject. "I donítí understand why you broke up with John over your attack. I would think you of all people wouldnít fold to the outside pressures. You are the champion of the underdog."

Evangeline cringed as she said, "Itís hard to explain Marcie. Itís hard to always be out there on the forefront fighting for the cause. Um, Iím not sure Iím explaining this right."

"Evangeline," Marcie said. "Did you know that Iíve been attacked before for my beliefs and left in a dumpster outside of Ultraviolet? It was before I met Michael, I was with Al Holden then. Anyway, if Al hadnít found me, I may have died." With her head kind of down, Marcie said, "Itís because he found me that Al died."

"Oh Marcie," Evangeline empathized. "Iím so sorry. You donít have to say any more. I know this must hurt you to talk about it."

"No," Marcie replied. "What Iím trying to say is that I know itís hard to represent certain things that others are against, but you canít let their narrow mindedness change the way you live your life. I know itís hard, but love is worth fighting for."

With a tear in her eye, Evangeline said, "Marcie, you are the strong person, not me. John has already lost someone so close to him in Caitlyn and I couldnít be the reason for him to go through that pain again if something were to happen to me. Plus, with all due respect, if you need to take a break from fighting the good fight, you can just keep your opinions to yourself. However, for me, Iíll always be black and I canít hide that. I donít know that I can handle always wondering why people are staring at me and John or God forbid, our kids. Am I making any sense?"

Marcie shook her head in agreement, "Yes, youíre making sense. I just hate to see you and John going through this alone. I think you two make a great couple. Thatís all. My lips are sealed. I wonít mention it any more."

"Thanks Marcie," Evangeline said. "Now, for the reason Iím here. I looked over your contracts with your agent and your publisher. They are pretty standard contracts, but I did some research and your agent will get 5% more than the average agent for a writer. I can change it to the average or leave it the same. Itís up to you. Once youíve decided, itís okay to sign them."

"Thank you so much Evangeline," Marcie said kinda in glee. "You have taken such a huge weight off my shoulders. Iíd like to change it to the average for my agent and then sign them."

Just then, Michael came walking up to bring Marcie some lunch.

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John was at the courthouse testifying as the principle investigator for a case he was on. As he walked out of the courtroom, he flashed back on the last time he was there and he had a perfect vision of Evangelineís face as he walked away from her. He wondered how her Thanksgiving was, how she was feeling and if her ribs were healing properly. Thoughts of her made him go ask around again about Judge Hernandez. Even though she needed her space, he wanted her to feel secure in that she really didnít lose Kelly Buchananís custody case.

As John talked to Judge Hernandezís assistant, he seemed even more nervous. John first asked, "Have you remembered any more from the time that Judge Hernandez was residing over the Kelly Buchanan custody case?"

"No, not at al,l" the judgeís assistant nervously replied.

John then asked, "Do you have any idea why Judge Hernandez let herself be replaced by Judge Fitzwater on the Antonio Vega custody case?"

"How would I know?" the judgeís assistant replied. "Letís just say that it was better for everyone all around. Iíve got to go." With that last statement, the judgeís assistant turned and scurried away.

John was about to go after him when he heard Nora call his name. He turned to face Nora as she was saying, "Hey John. How are you doing?"

John could tell by the look on her face that she must have talked to Evangeline at some point since the attack. He replied while giving her a half smile, "Iím okay."

Nora looked at him skeptically and then said, "Liar. You look as bad as Evangeline sounded on the phone when I talked to her. Whatís going on?"

John usually didnít like to express his feelings to anyone, but he liked Nora and he thought that if anyone could, maybe she could clarify what Evangeline was feeling. He told her what had happened after he took Evangeline home after she filed her police report. "Can you help me to understand where Evangeline is coming from? Has she talked to you about it?"

"Oh John," Nora replied as she rubbed his arm and pointed him to a bench to sit down. "I talked to Evangeline while she was at her Motherís, but she didnít tell me all the details about the attack. She wasnít really up to it. As far as where sheís coming from, I couldnít definitely say. Iíd have to say that being in an interracial relationship affects different people in different ways. From my own experience, I can say that the intense looks and unsolicited comments from strangers were hard to take at times. I wouldnít presume to speak for Evangeline though."

"Did she tell you that I told her that I love her?" John asked. "It seemed to make her feel worse though."

"You love her?" Nora asked in shock. "No, she didnít tell me that, but Iím sure she will. Iím meeting her for lunch in about an hour. You love her?"

John embarrassingly smiled and said with his head held down, "Yes. I love her. Iím just afraid I waited to long to tell her."

"John," Nora smiled as she said, "Give her some time. Sheís gone through a traumatic experience. She just needs some time."

"Thanks for talking to me, Nora," John said.

John and Nora arose from the bench where they were sitting and left the courthouse.

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As Tico Santi hung up the phone, he said aloud, "Why is McBain still snooping around Judge Hernandez? If he persists, his girlfriend may have to have another incident."

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As Michael sat Marcieís lunch on her desk, he gave Marcie a peck on the cheek and turned toward Evangeline. "Hi," he said.

"Hey Michael," Evangeline replied.

"How are your ribs?" Michael asked.

"I can almost take a complete deep breath now," Evangeline said. "Thanks for asking and for taking care of me in emergency that day."

"No problem," Michael replied. "I was just doing my job."

"Well, I have to go," Evangeline stated. "Marcie, Iíll update that percentage for you and messenger the contracts over for you to sign."

"Thanks Evangeline," Marcie replied. "Thank you again for all your help."

"Yeah, Evangeline," Michael replied. "Thanks for helping Marcie."

"Youíre both welcome," was Evangelineís response.

Michael was going to let Evangeline walk away, but the protective brother in him wouldnít let him do it. He had asked Jordan why he thought Evangeline broke it off with John and Jordan said that interracial dating has itís own outside complications and all coupleís circumstances are unique. Jordan said that heís known Evangeline for a long time and that heís never seen her as happy as she was with John. However, Evangelineís feelings are personal to her and only she can explain them. He said he wouldnít presume to speak for her.

As Evangeline turned to leave, Michael blurted out, "Why are you doing this to my brother? Donít you understand how hard it was for him to open up to you? If you leave him for good, heíll never come back from this emotionally."

"Michael!" Marcie blurted out. "This is really none of our business. Itís between John and Evangeline."

"Michael," Evangeline said sadly. "Donít you think Iíve thought about that? Donít you think I feel bad about it? Itís just hard to explain."

"Please Evangeline," Michael implored. "Could you just try to explain so Iíll understand?"

Michael, Marcie and Evangeline turned with a start when they heard John say, "Leave her alone Mike. She doesnít have to try to explain to make you understand." Even though John was talking to Michael, he was staring at Evangeline the whole time.

"Hey Evangeline," John said shyly. "How are you?"

"Iím okay," she replied.

"Can you come to my office and talk to me for a minute?" John asked hopefully.

Although every fiber in her body screamed for her to go with him, Evangeline said, "Iím sorry, I canít. Iím meeting Nora for lunch and Iím already a few minutes late. I have to go. Bye."

"Bye," John said sadly as he turned to walk to his office.

Marcie waved to Michael to follow him to his office. As Michael walked into the office behind John, he said, "why did you let her go like that broí? Arenít you going to fight for her? You said you love her."

"I do love her," John replied indignantly. "I love her enough that if she needs space from me, Iím going to give it to her. My God, look at how patient she has been with me. I can at least do the same for her. I still believe that weíll end up together."

"Okay John," Michael replied. "If thatís the way you want to play it. I just donít want to see you shutting down again."

"Donít worry about me little brother," John replied. "Iíll be fine."

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As Evangeline entered Rodiís to meet Nora for lunch, she was hanging on by a thread emotionally. The fact that she had to go to the station at all had started her nerves to racing. Then, when you add onto that her talks with Marcie and Michael and then seeing John, it was almost too much. She was glad sheíd be seeing Nora because Nora was always able to talk her down. When she got to the table, Nora stood up and gave Evangeline a hug. Nora asked simultaneously, "How are you?"

Evangeline flinched as the hug was ending and Noraís arm hit her cracked rib side. "Other than the occasional sharp pain, Iím okay," she said.

"Come on Evangeline," Nora replied. "You know I mean how are you doing with what has happened between you and John. Although, I am glad you are feeling better physically."

Sheepishly, Evangeline said, "I knew what you meant. Itís just that Iíve talked to Marcie and Michael about it today and then I ran into John before I could leave the station. Itís so hard seeing him."

"Well, Evangeline," Nora inquired, "If itís so hard seeing John, why did you break up with him? I donít believe that youíd let that bigot come between you and the man that loves you."

Evangeline gasped, "How do you know that John loves me?"

"He told me," Nora said. "I ran into him at the courthouse. He looks awful, but I guess you saw that for yourself. I canít believe that you didnít tell me that when I talked to you on Thanksgiving."

"I hoped if I didnít say it out loud, that it wouldnít be true," Evangeline said kind of embarrassed. "I canít believe that he told you. When did this happen? When did he become so free with his feelings?"

"When he fell in love with you," Nora said as a matter of fact. "You didnít tell him that you love him too, did you?"

"Nora!" Evangeline exclaimed. "I never said I loved John."

"No you didnít," Nora replied. "However, Iíve been telling you that you do and I can tell that you do."

"I canít," Evangeline said softly. "I canít be the reason for John going through the type of pain he went through when he lost Caitlyn."

"Iím not following you," Nora said confused.

"Say John and I become closer and Iím attacked again. Say Iím hurt even worse than this time because I really think that guy would have tried to hurt me if Antonio hadnít come up. Wouldnít that just bring back all of Johnís sorrow from his memories of Caitlyn? Plus, I donít think Iím strong enough to live a life of looking over my shoulder and wondering if someone is going to say something to us or our kids. I really donít know how you did it."

"Oh Evangeline," Nora said sympathetically. "Your true motive in doing this is your love for John. I donítí think heíd agree with what youíre doing though. As for how I did it, especially during the time that I did it, I just let the fact that I truly loved Hank override any of my fears. Once Rachel came along, I became the mother tigress taking care of her child, no matter what others said. Hank and I grew apart because of our careers and ambition, but not because of our being different races. Iíll never be sorry for loving him or our life together. I still love him now, even though weíre not together. From what you just said, youíll never stop loving John either. I wish youíd reconsider what youíre doing."

"Iíll think about it," Evangeline replied. "I just need some more space for perspective."

"Well," Nora said. "Iím here for you no matter what, day or night. You call me if you need me, alright?"

"Okay," Evangeline replied with a smile. "Thank You."

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Natalie Vega was on a mission. During her shift at Rodiís during lunch, she overheard Nora ask Evangeline why she broke up with John. She didnít hear any of the details because she didnít want to get caught eavesdropping. She did think to herself, "Jessica was right. Evangeline did eventually break up with John."

Natalie had looked all over for John. She had stopped by the station on her way home from Rodiís, but he had left. She had knocked on the door of his room, but he didnít answer. She was hoping that the next place she looked, the roof of the Angelís Square Hotel, sheíd find him. To her delight, she did.

John had left the station early because after seeing Evangeline, he just couldnít concentrate. He still didnít know what to do with himself, so he came to the roof to clear his head. His idea wasnít working because every area of the roof reminded him of her. He was remembering making out by the door with her while they burned the fish they were grilling and her crying at the end of the movie that she had told him that everyone should see. He was so deep in thought that he didnít realize that Natalie had come out on the roof and was sitting next to him. When she touched him on the arm, it startled him.

"Sorry," Natalie said. "I called your name a couple of times, but you didnít respond."

"Sorry," John replied in kind. "I was thinking about other things. What are you doing up here?"

"Actually," Natalie replied coyly, "I was looking for you."

"Why?" John asked. "Has Kramer done something else?"

"No," Natalie responded a little dejected. "I overheard Nora asking Evangeline why she broke up with you and I thought I would check and see how you were doing. You know, repay the favor from when you talked to me up here on the roof after I broke it off with Paul."

"Oh," John shrugged.

"Well," Natalie said. "How are you doing?"

"I appreciate your concern Natalie," John replied. "I donít want to talk about it."

"So it is true?" she asked.

John just shook his head yes.

Natalie was elated inside, but tried her best to hide it. She racked her brain for something to say and then said, "Well, like you told me when I broke it off with Paul, youíre probably better off. You said you werenít ready for a commitment and Evangeline seems like the type to want one."

With a shocked look, John got up to leave the roof. Trying not to be rude, he said before he left, "I know you think youíre helping, but we shouldnít talk about this. Iíll see you later." After that comment, he turned and left the roof.

Natalie was a little dismayed with what had happened, but then she smiled. She thought to herself, "Finally, John is free again and now I have my shot. Iíll try not to play games with him this time. Iíll try the friend route and make sure it turns into something more."

After John left the roof, he went to his room. As he entered, he flashed back to the last time he had come from the roof after talking to Natalie and how Evangeline had been waiting for him. "When did this happen?" he thought. "When did I lose the best thing that has happened to me in such a long time?"

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