Chapter 37

Better Days

~…the blindfold's off my eyes…~

Dawn lingered in the lobby of the famed attorney's office. Weeks ago, she begged Dara for legal advice. Her sister countered with a plea of her own. She wanted Dawn to wait and think things through. In the end, Dawn's stubborn determination won and now, here she was right on time for an appointment with Evangeline Williamson-McBain.

Recognition registered in the receptionist's eyes. The young woman smiled shyly and said, "She knows you're here."

"Thank you."

"Um…would it be okay…? I mean, could I have your autograph?"

Dawn nodded. The familiar request proved to be a soothing balm. Nervousness left her as she signed her name on a legal pad. "What's your name?"

"Sabine. I have all your CDs and I've been to two concerts." The receptionist spoke in an excited rush. "Is it true that DJLS is splitsville?"

"No, Sabine, we're still a band." Dawn wrote 'To Sabine, best wishes for a happy future. -Dawn Jensen Cassadine.' She handed the legal pad over. "We're taking a long overdue vacation."

Sabine's eyes glowed as she read the note. "Thank you! DJLS deserves a break. You guys rock. My whole family loves you."

"Thanks. I'll let the guys know."

The conversation came to an abrupt halt when a beautiful woman in her mid-forties appeared. She had flawless mocha hued skin and warm, welcoming brown eyes. Dawn recognized Evangeline from her incredible press coverage. She rarely lost a case and had a reputation that many lawyers envied. When Evangeline moved to Port Charles a couple of years ago, she and Dara became fast friends. Dara refused to represent Dawn in this matter and referred Evangeline.

"Hi, Dawn." Evangeline extended her hand and the two women shook hands. "Come with me."

"Thank you for agreeing to see me on such short notice," Dawn said as she followed Evangeline into her stylishly decorated corner office. "I know that the standard wait time to meet with you is at least several months."

"Dara is one of my best friends," Evangeline said. "I almost feel like we're related. There is no need for thanks. Please, have a seat." She indicated the long suede sofa with a view of the harbor. After Dawn sat, she joined her. "Dara gave me a brief summary of your legal needs. Are you certain this is what you want?"

"I haven't made a firm decision. It's pretty pathetic, really, but I can hardly say the word." Dawn swallowed hard and forced it out. "Divorce. That's why I'm here…to talk to you about divorcing my husband and establishing a custody arrangement for our children. We have two minor children. Our oldest son is in college."

Evangeline placed a hand on Dawn's shoulder. "You're upset. Would you like a glass of water or a cup of tea?"

"I don't want you to go to any trouble."

Evangeline shrugged. "What trouble? I pick up a phone and it's done. What would you like?"

"Chamomile tea would be nice. Thanks."

As Evangeline made the call, Dawn looked at the display of framed photographs that adorned the beige colored walls and Evangeline's expansive mahogany desk. Family pictures of happy times judging by the smiles on Evangeline's face. The man with her had long dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. They appeared deliriously happy together. Several images showed two children, a girl and a boy. Maybe twins. Dawn's breath caught. She remembered feeling that happy once upon a time, too.

"Those two are my lifeline. Johanna and Evan. They're twins." Evangeline handed one of the pictures to Dawn. "They were about two here."

"That's an interesting age." Smiling, Dawn returned the photo. "They are beautiful and mirror images of you and your husband. How old are they now?"

"Twelve. Soon the hormones will rage. I've heard the warnings." A wan smile crossed Evangeline's face. "John would have enjoyed this."

"Would have?" Dawn frowned and glanced at one of the photos of the happy couple. She couldn't imagine that vibrant man being anything other than alive.

"Yes, he was a cop." Evangeline paused for only a moment. "He was killed in the line of duty two years ago."

"I'm sorry."

"I used to be, but then I realized I had to count my blessings. We had a great life together and created two incredible kids. Some people live a lifetime and never experience what we shared. When I look at it that way, there's no way I can allow myself an ounce of self-pity."

Tears of shame burned Dawn's eyes. She looked at her hands clenched tightly in her lap. Dear God, what am I doing here?

"I didn't mean to upset you," Evangeline said. She handed Dawn a box of facial tissues. "You're here to discuss--"

"No, don't." She grabbed a tissue and gave Evangeline the box. "You've given me a lot to think about. I appreciate your candor."

"Well, they don't call us counselors for nothing."

~…sometimes life just isn't fair…~

"You're trying to play Russian Roulette with not only my life, but my children's lives, too. I will not stand for it."

"Nikolas, it's only dinner."

"Father, I know what you're doing." Nikolas paced the length of Stefan's study. He avoided making eye contact with the pictures on the wall. He didn't need any further reminders that his life was in a tailspin. "It won't work."

"What?" Stefan removed his black framed eyeglasses from the bridge of his nose and began to polish the lenses. "Dinner eases hunger pangs for food."

Nikolas grunted, a humorless attempt for laughter. "You're so innocent."

"What am I guilty of?" His father questioned. "What have I done that's so horrible and so deserving of your wrath and mistrust? I love you, Nikolas. Your happiness and well being has always been my primary concern."

Nikolas held up a hand. "Don't."

Stefan carefully lowered his glasses to the desk. He took measured steps to reach his son. "Are there any barriers sufficient to prevent you from caring for Dominik?"

"Father--"

"Or Noelle? What about Adrik? As their father, do you have any restraint from doing what you know is right for them? Whether they want it or not?"

Nikolas narrowed his eyes. He hated the elder Cassadine's ability to see through him and know exactly which buttons to push. "The difference is I am not a child. They are."

"Dominik would argue that point." Stefan's mouth twitched with humor.

Even more ire flared within. "Would you agree with him?"

"When you were his age, you were married and had a son," Stefan countered. "Were you a man then or a child?"

"That's not fair. There is no comparison between my life and Dominik's--"

"Son," Stefan said gently as he cupped Nikolas' jaw, "life isn't fair. What's the harm in a simple dinner? We've had them before. You've never shown outrage at sharing a meal here in the past. Your favorites will be served. You will be surrounded by loved ones--"

"Dawn will be there." Nikolas backed away from Stefan's touch. With his back to his father, he moved to the window. He had a front view of the stables. Four people were heading out on horseback. From this distance, he could not recognize faces, but he knew the body language of his eldest. In that moment, a memory returned fresh and pure. Riding Sheba and returning to a pregnant Dawn who loved the fit of his riding breeches. He remembered the joy they shared in simply being together. Where had that feeling gone?

"Do you doubt her love for you?"

Nikolas whispered the word. "No."

"Do you no longer love her?"

Nikolas bristled from Stefan's continued interrogation, but he could not refrain from answering. "No. I love her, but…"

"There is no exception," Stefan said quietly. "The two of you have withstood more than most to be together. Me, Helena, Spencer and more. Do not become your own greatest enemy. Besides, it's only dinner…unless you choose to make it more."

~…stuck somewhere in the middle…~

"You're awfully quiet." Alana cast a sideways glance at Dominik. They'd been on horseback for close to an hour. Ben and Ciarda rode ahead of them. Her sister seemed relieved to be in Port Charles. Alana wondered if that meant Ciarda would have a change of residence soon. Alana also wondered about Dominik's silence. He suggested the ride to unwind, but she sensed he was tight as a drum. "What's wrong?"

"Mama's talking to a divorce attorney today."

"Oh, my God." She stifled a gasp. "She told you?"

"No, of course not. I overheard her talking to Aunt Dara." The muscles in his jaw clenched and relaxed. "She doesn't know I know. I almost asked her about it, but she doesn't want to hear my advice."

"What advice is that?"

"To move on. Mama's been through so much. She deserves some happiness--"

"Dom, your parents were very happy together."

He grunted. "The operative word is 'were'."

"Come on." She pulled the reins, causing her midnight black Arabian to stop.

Dom's horse halted, too. "What? There are things you don't know."

"There are things you don't know," she countered. "We think we know everything about our parents, but in reality we don't. Dad hates his father. I never understood that until Tom Hardy, Senior returned. My Dad can be protective, but I've never seen this side of him before. If someone had told me, I would have punched them in the stomach."

"Uncle Tommy went through a lot, but this thing between Mama and Nikolas--"

"Wait a minute. Since when do you call your father by his name? I bet you won't do that to his face."

He rolled his eyes. In a hard, sarcastic tone, he said, "Papa is a hypocrite. Your father isn't."

"I remember when Uncle Nikolas was your hero," she said softly. "It's not fair to choose sides."

"Tell that to Noelle."

"No, I'm telling it to you." She lightly touched his arm. Muscles jumped upon impact. A thousand nerve endings stood at attention. She ignored the sensations coursing through her and persisted in trying to reach him. "Everyone's the victim here. I love your family. I hate to see everyone hurting. My folks feel the same way. Don't choose sides, Dom. Love them both. They both love you and Noelle and Adrik. You know I'm right about this."

"So, I'm supposed to just be stuck in the middle. Clueless and blind to what I know is happening."

"Yeah, otherwise you'll rip yourself in two."

He stroked her hand in a light caress. "How do you know that?"

"Because I can already see it happening." She sighed. "Better days are ahead. They have to be."

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