Sitting in her living room drinking coffee, watching the sun begin its decent John reflects that it’s been a long time now since he felt such peace, an easy peace. The last time was in her old place waking up with their arms around each other and him seeing desire, longing and love in her eyes—all for him; all about them. When they got dressed she ended it with him.
He’d done some seriously reckless things since then: nearly killing Hayes Barber, more in the hopes of getting thrown off the force—so he could freely drown in the agony of her loss under cover of losing his life’s work—than any real belief that he’d shake loose information on Natalie’s whereabouts; several brawls in bars on the outskirts of Philadelphia—at least he’d had sense enough to do that away from home; all cries for her attention but she didn’t come to check on him and he knew the rumor mill kept her well-informed. In despair he suddenly drove to Atlantic City to catch up with his mom during a cruise layover. He had gotten in his car to go someplace, anyplace out of Llanview, away from Natalie and the knowing eyes of co-workers for a few hours. He hadn’t known where he was or thought he’d crossed any state lines before seeing the Welcome to New Jersey sign—that snapped him back into wakefulness.
So he went by the old neighborhood and saw welcoming lights in his parents’ home, the key still fit the door at least his mother hadn’t abandoned him. But she wasn’t home either. Everything indicated she was back for a while at least so he went upstairs and replayed memories of a childhood life when his dad was still alive and his mother laughed as she sang, went back downstairs sat down in the tv room and waited for her. Falling asleep on the couch he was awakened by the lightest touch, one he knew, "Evangeline." "No, honey, its mom, I’m happy, if surprised, to see you here."
Sitting up they hugged and made small talk while Eve registered every nuanced change in her oldest boy. Love and life was such a difficult road for the McBains, worse for the men but even Shannon was having more than a few struggles getting it right, making it real for themselves and believing in that love once they found it. They didn’t seem to know how to hang in through the rocky times and help their partner want to stay. No, they threw up unbreachable walls, generally acted like asses and weren’t surprised but would sink into abysmal internal bitterness when the person they adored gave up and went away. Their posturing contentment in being alone had puzzled her from the day she realized she was pretty serious about Thomas McBain and expected to make a life with him. During their marriage she had actively fought that quiet, consistent pessimistic strain in her three McBains. She lost a few rounds but she was making steady progress in showing them and making them believe in the real chances of happiness and love, not just the longing hope for it. Then her husband was killed in the line of duty and she couldn’t believe or hope for herself anymore; couldn’t make it out of bed most mornings and their family’s survival fell to John.
"Is your brother with you or do I have your company all to myself?" while she spoke Eve took inventory of her boy, this was worse than Michael and Shannon had warned her. This was as bad for him as losing Caitlin, worse in a way than the aftermath of his father’s death. Knowing Evangeline was in the here and now but didn’t want to share herself with him had speeded up his desire for ruin, maybe even death.
Sighing Eve let go of the missed opportunities to visit Llanview and get to know the woman who had been given her pearls. If not for reports from her other children she’d barely know what was happening in John’s life; no, not true a mother knows, especially about her first-born. Eve had heard the quiet ebullience in John’s voice this last year; never mentioning Evangeline by name but making it clear that his hushed enthusiasm was for someone that had brought entirely new experiences into his world. A surprising joy was in him back then supplanting the agony of that red-head who had nearly crushed him with pain and blame over her husband’s murder.
"I’m sorry I never got to know Evangeline with you, and the person you became with her. It’s clear to me that you’re existing on figuring out a way to get her back, soooo if that’s what you want how does that girl fit into this plan? Generally speaking son, it’s difficult to impossible for a woman to come back to a man who’s with someone else. It tends to feel wrong."
"I’m not WITH Natalie!" John shouted, "I mean, not really, I’m just…she needs so much and Evangeline doesn’t need anything. At least nothing from me." He finished angrily, turning from his mother to sulk.
"Oh dear, oh John, please don’t tell me you’re all hung up on being needed in the weakest sense of the word because of me. Darling, it was an extreme situation but parents should not, as a rule, let their kids take care of them like they’re little adults. They’re not. They’re children, you were a child and I leaned too heavily on you."
"I was glad you trusted me to take care of you and Michael. I WANTED to be there for the family to handle stuff and keep from thinking about things I couldn’t change."
"You were always such an internal kid and being forced to grow-up so quickly robbed you of so much, John, I’m so sorry for falling completely to pieces."
"It’s alright, mom, I won’t let you blame yourself. We all did what was needed during the roughest times ever for our family. And we’re fine now; we even have Shannon now to even out the girl power odds."
"Yes, and I adore having her with us. John, you’re a grown man and when I met Natalie after you two became friends I was happy that she understood your pain and could share your AC past." Looking him in the eye she continues, "But never once did I imagine that she might be daughter-in-law or relationship material for you. I know she’s been through tough times but surely you realize she’s much too young, in every way possible for you. You’re bound to lose interest. Besides you’re in love with Evangeline, what am I missing from this picture?"
"I’m sure Mikey’s been talking to you; you know I couldn’t tell Evangeline what she needs to hear. Anyway, we’re practically from different universes; I never understood what the hell she was doing with me."
"You were together for almost a year, obviously you found a lot of good things that you enjoyed about one another. I know for a fact that you were happy; why can’t you just let yourself be happy?"
"Mom, can we please just let this go? I don’t want to talk about or think about what might’ve been, what I couldawouldashoulda. I didn’t and she’s with someone else, she’s happy now with someone else, Jax is giving her the world and more, she deserves every bit of it."
"And this girl? Does she deserve to just be a noble duty on your part? Is she that desperate that she’d settle for so little from you? Am I such a bad mother that I taught you giving yourself to someone just because THEY want it is good enough?" Getting up Eve flicks on all the lights in the room, pulls John to his feet and stands him in front of a mirror, "I know what happy looks like on you, I know what contentment looks like—I don’t see any of that all I see, John, is abject misery. You deserve to be happy too, and with the woman you love and who clearly loves you too."
"She used to."
"Well, I don’t think you should delay any longer letting her know what’s in your heart, head and soul. Otherwise John, you’re going to look around and see another man, maybe this Jax, living out what should’ve been your happiness and life with Evangeline."
"She won’t forgive me, she isn’t coming back, she’s quite clear on that."
"Try harder, then try again. Or are you leaving something out?"
"Mom, please, I heard you now can we stop talking about me?"
"Fine, I’ll stop for now. It’s not often you’re home these days we’ll just enjoy our time together, how long can you stay?"
"I’d like to stay a few days but I didn’t even know I was coming here so I have no clothes, shaving kit, nothing."
"And you could use a shave; but I’ll accept you looking scruffy. You still have some jeans and shirts upstairs. And we won’t talk about you anymore tonight."
"Good, thank you."
"So, tell me what the hell happened with Michael and Marcie and how did you let our Shannon get mixed up with that dreadful player Rex Balsom? Isn’t he some relation to the girl you’re seeing? Thanks to him she’s living so far away now."
Heading to his old room sighing and rolling his eyes heavenward John settles in for a several days’ worth of questioning, his mother was as relentless with Q&A as Evangeline. Downstairs Eve contemplates her options, sits at her computer and e-mails her youngest son for all the contact information and idea of her schedule that Michael may have on his brother’s ex. Sometimes a mother just has to step up and step in, that’s what moms are for Eve assures herself, to do everything possible to see to their children’s happiness and then to do the impossible if that’s what’s called for.