Don’t Make Me Over
Evangeline could feel his pulse speed up, his breathing change and she knew John had gone way past counting to 10 to try and hold onto his escalating temper. He was fearful of where her actions could take her, he was afraid of being unable to reach her in time to help, of losing her to a terrible and alone death.
Mindful of his history Van pressed her lips to his ear, “I will be very, very careful, John. You’ve given me everything to live for—a home, a happy life. Don’t worry; I’ll come safely back to your arms, promise.”
“Where are you going to meet Hesser that I would ‘slow you down’?” John queried as he tried in vain to lash down his fear and increasing anger with Evangeline. “I think I have enough expertise in working hard cases undercover with hardheads to more then hold my own and help you out of a jam too.” Exasperated he angrily let go of his control, “Does it NEVER occur to you that there are situations, instances like this one, when you could use some help? Back-up?”
Moving out of her embrace he leaned against the arm and stared at her, she was watching him with complete openness and waiting. Sitting cross-legged her posture was calm and relaxed and John noted that she was in excellent shape, fighting trim. Her months in Llanview with him hadn’t erased the extra-toned supple movements of her muscles under her beautiful skin. To the untrained eye she looked exceptionally fit and in shape, a woman who cared about her appearance. To John she was a woman prepared for the unexpected to happen and more then able to defend herself physically. He sighed remembering the beat down she’d given to John Durant, her movements so fast John hadn’t tracked that she had gone into attack mode until Durant’s brains were in danger of seeping out from his ears from the thrashing Evangeline delivered.
“I can help you, keep you…” he hated that a note of pleading was creeping into his voice.
“Safe? You’ll keep me safe from Carlo and the evil terrors of the world, John?” With conscious effort Van kept a cold note of scoffing and near laughter from spilling into her voice. She loved John; she cared about his well-being and didn’t want to decimate him with another haunting murder of a loved one.
Spreading her arms open she sighed “Sweetheart, there’s no real guarantee of safety in this world and you, of all people, are painfully aware of that. I will do everything, everything that I must to be back before you have a chance to miss me. John, you have to have some faith and trust that your love will always guide me safely home.” While she spoke she unconsciously pulled her hair back into a ponytail “I really don’t want to fight with you over this, so let’s not okay?”
John’s short angry head shake made her sigh inwardly as he glared at her and responded “No, not okay. It’s much too late and there’s no doubt we’re definitely gonna fight if you don’t see and admit how stupid, reckless, dangerous and totally unnecessary going solo is!”
“Why are you even doing this? Let the authorities investigate Hesser, there’s no reason for your involvement.”
“He called me, John; he wants to speak to me.”
“Who the hell cares what Carlo wants? Do you intend to charm the information out of him, is that why you don’t want me around?” he asked sharply.
He saw the flare of pain in her eyes as she narrowed them and replied “That’s not my plan or intention but if I have to, I will.”
“Yes, of course you will, anything to get the job done, it’s why you’re the best, right? Right!! Use whatever’s available just like you’re trying to charm me to deflect this conversation!!” John kept his tone even but a sneer was in his delivery while pointing his finger at Van and punching the air with it, “First you tell me you love me, now you’re using sweet words, when did you start calling me ‘sweetheart’? Was anything that happened between us this afternoon real, or where you just setting the stage to spring this little trap of leaving on me?”
“I’ve never faked anything with you, John!! Damn it all, you KNOW that!! We made love and we were totally in that place together, it was NOT an act or setting the scene. How dare you?!!” springing from the couch Van started to pace. “I won’t let you have your way so you try to believe I have no feelings at all?!” She stood still and glared at him, “I choose where I go, what I do, who I’m with. Me. No one else has a say. In the past I wouldn’t have given your feelings a second’s thought and I would have told you a lie, but I didn’t do that. I considered you, us. I was honest and I see now it’s every inch as overrated as I always assumed it was! I don’t have to wait until next week to leave, I can leave today. Now.” Turning from him she headed for the doorway and the stairs.
“Any excuse to walk away, huh? Isn’t the agreement no one leaves, no one walks out? Or does that only play out as long as I go along to get along!” Standing and moving quickly John’s long legs caught him up to her before her foot lifted to mount the first step. Putting his hand on her arm she half-turned to look at him and he saw the expected fury in her eyes, surprisingly, he saw the glint of tears around the edges. Van had wrapped her arms around her body, further proof he knew that he had wounded her. He tried not to soften immediately but felt his emotions holding sway “Look, Evangeline, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Yes you did, you most definitely wanted to hurt me.” Van fought to keep the tears from her voice, glancing up at John she removed his hand from her arm and stepped away from him.
“I just wanted you to stop and think about this, to think about me. I’m sorry I got mad and yelled but you’re really scaring me. Bo’s had a lot of first-hand experience with Carlo Hesser, I’ve read the file on this guy which is thick. He’s the master of his game and people disappear around him with regularity. How should I feel about this?” sighing he added, “But I know it’s not true that you set me up to cushion the blow, I’m still in shock that you said you love me, I hope you still love me after this fight. I shouldn’t have thrown your words back at you when you’re saying all that I need to hear AND being honest about what you’re doing.”
She turned away from him back toward the stairs when he said softly, “Of course, you still haven’t said WHERE exactly you’ll be.”
“And after this I won’t!” she tossed off as she started to run up the stairs. By the eighth step she’d changed her mind; she wouldn’t let him make her run away in pain and hurt. Turning back she dangled one leg off the step she was on as though she might descend again, “I won’t soon forget that the price of my honesty is you trying to push me to anger, pain and tears. I was wrong to trust you John McBain, I was wrong and I won’t make that mistake again. Ever.” Evangeline showed him her back and walked slowly gracefully up the stairs regaining her sense of self with each step although her composure was shattered along with her beginning belief in faith and love.
Putting his arm on the banister John put his head down for a few minutes, raised it and tugged painfully at hunks of his hair “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Where did you think this would get you, going at her like that?” He debated about leaving her alone for awhile shook his head and wearily started up the stairs.
At first he was puzzled when the door wouldn’t open and almost put his weight on it thinking it stuck, and then he realized he was locked out. She had locked him out of their bedroom. This was very serious, she would make him beg to get back in and he would do it too. Anything so long as he heard her voice on the other side of the door, as long as she didn’t slip away into the air back to a life she had shown him more then once that she was well-versed in hiding from him in, he’d never be able to track her.
“Evangeline, baby, come on now, come on. We have to see each other and talk this through, open the door.”
“Answer me, or I’m breaking down the door. You could be hurt in there. Evangeline!!”
“Any hurt I have you caused it. Get away from the door, get off this floor. Go away, John. Leave me alone.”
“Listen, I’m so sorry I just totally lost it…”
“I said GO AWAY!!! Leave or by the time you get the door open, I swear I’ll be long gone. If I have to I’ll rig the door so that when it opens you’re left in a world of pain.”
Stunned by her words John was uncertain how to proceed; did she really mean to cause him physical harm? Would she, could she do that to him after all these years together? Well, he thought wryly, at least she warned me something would happen if I force the door, didn’t leave anything to chance and just let me walk into a booby trap. Her way of showing care and concern, it must be love.
“I mean it, LEAVE…..ME.....ALONE or you’ll regret the moment you laid eyes on me.”
“Evangeline, I’ll never regret knowing you, being with you and loving you, no matter what you do to me or to yourself. And I swore I’d never let you feel alone again so I won’t try to come in but I’m not leaving.” Sliding down the door he stretched his legs out on the floor, “I’m just going to sit here and wait until you’re ready to see me and talk. I’m sorry I hurt you, I’m sorry I was cruel to you. I love you. Nothing changes that, ever.”
Listening intently he was fairly sure he heard the sound of her easing into her favorite chair, and the sound of her muffled gasps as she struggled to cry silently.
“Jesus, what have I done to her?” he asked the air as he leaned back against door and tried to send his love and reassurances to her.