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The leisurely drive over to the airport had been pretty much uneventful even though his mind remained restless. The moonless night sky, the obscure street lighting, the rush of oncoming traffic, sure his driver, Carter had taken this route often enough so it wasn't anything new. Just another one of these business trips prompted by the need to check up on the Sun's subsidiary in Port Charles. He did this twice each month. Preferring to take a late flight after spending as much time with Sam eating his favourite meal, helping out with homework afterwards dropping him off at Llanfair. His editor-in-chief Frank Reed was tough as nails but nothing beat the expression on his employees' faces once he stepped off that elevator. Even after all this time, he still got a weird thrill from the look of fear in their eyes yet in many ways Todd Manning was a changed man.
He never spent any prolonged periods of time away from his kids especially wanting to be there more for Sam his youngest. He could never make up for the time lost with his older two. Heck Starr was in college now; Jack a senior at Llanview High. As for his marriage to Blair, that shipped sailed when Sam was 2 ½ years old and now he was seven; a third grader at Llanview Elementary.
Looking back, he finally admitted that his off again, on again relationship with Blair personally cost him everything except for his kids. They were the only two good things between them, nothing else. He swallowed, massaging his brow. Hoping that his mind wouldn't take him there but inevitably it always did.
For one brief moment the dream lay within his grasp. All that he ever desired, hoped for, needed...
"Baby what's wrong? The look in your eyes say everything. Todd...please."
The utter look of devastation in her beautiful brown eyes jerked his heart but he was caught between a rock and a hard place. He needed Blair to obtain full custody of Sam not only because a marriage between would look great in the eyes of the court but also because of a critical piece of information she had to seal the deal without having to endure a long trial. She never gave him a chance to fully explain; too upset to listen. He didn't put up a fight when she pushed him out the door. He hated leaving her that way.
He recalled riding the elevator down alone breathing heavily; a part of him wanting to bash his head against its walls, the pain of love loss too immense along with the negative thoughts circulating within himself. He wasn't deserving of her love in the first place. Just another man that has abandoned her...just like John.
Stop it, Stop It Todd, he subconsciously admonished, raking his hands over his face. Afterwards he took a deep breath, leaning back against the chair, gazing up at the lights in the metal ceiling. Being so close to Sam kept him sane through all those horrible nights. He didn't turn to drinking instead he held on to his son. Blair never understood what he was going through not that it really mattered. As long as he and Evangeline were apart, the wound would never heal.
He retrieved his phone from his jacket and quickly pressed a button.
"Todd? I didn't expect to get a call from you until you landed."
"Just wanted to check in on Sam and see if he's sticking to the bedtime routine."
Just talking about his son already was starting to set his heart at ease.
"A warm glass of milk seemed to do the trick this time around. Yet I do believe that he's worried about you though..."
"Why would you say that?" Todd interrupted, chuckling at the thought.
"Todd don't play coy with me. Kids understand mood changes more than we give them credit."
It was true. At times Sam just sat staring at him without saying much. Todd often shrug it off as a part of Sam's personality or perhaps he was denying what was really going on.
"Ok I'll speak with him when I get back. He needs to be a kid and not another Starr worrying over her parents."
"I expect you to do what's best. I'm sure I don't need to remind you about the chance you've been given. Sam loves you very much. Don't screw this up."
Todd sighed, dragging his right hand through his hair. Although he needed it, he hated to get another lecture from big sis.
"Don't worry...I get it..."
Attention passengers this is the final boarding call for Flight 303. All ticketed passengers should immediately proceed towards the gate. Stand-by passengers should approach the counter for seat assignments.
"Finally," Todd sighed outwardly.
"Looks like I gotta go Vic," Todd responded while rising from his seat and adjusting the straps of his carryon.
"Ok take care Todd and have a safe flight."
"Stop worrying. Just concentrate on one Manning..."
"One Manning yeah right..."
The phone went silent. Todd pushed it back into his jacket with a smile on his face. Vicky can be such a mother hen at times but he was also thankful she cared.
Beyond the clouds Llanview lay just below the horizon. But why return to Llanview after all this time? Judging her past experience, Llanview is the place where the men stood in line to break her heart over and over again. Why indeed. If she truly thought about it, returning to Llanview never seemed like a good idea. Her career in Llanview was exceptional but her personal life was always chaotic. And yes she had a bad habit of being attracted to and then for falling for the wrong guys who carried around a myriad of emotional baggage. She'd guess being a lawyer created that character flaw.
Huh...looking back she'd actually believed that Todd was the one. Hadn't they been friends for quite a while? Laughing, talking, and butting heads...She relished those moments of getting to know and understand such a complex man inside and out. The heart wants what it wants and she wanted Todd and their new burgeoning relationship to work out. It was supposed to last a lifetime, She'd finally found the man who cared for her the way she needed to be cared for. The man who put her first and the hell with everyone else. She felt the same way about him too. He touched a part of her soul unknown to even herself yet some things were not meant to be no matter how much you want it to be otherwise. Unshed tears sprung in her eyes and she quickly blinked them away.
"Why are you doing this? Why are you breaking my heart? I trusted you!"
She recalled how hard she cried that day, collapsing to the floor in anguish after she slammed the door in his face, her world completely shattered. She never experienced such an intense emotionally breakdown. Her tears couldn't dry fast enough for a fresh stream to flow down her face. It didn't seem fair! Outside the day was cold, dark and rainy mirroring her mood. Was she ever going to be happy again? After that day she vowed never to allow any man to bring her down into such depths of despair. Still it proved difficult to forget the bastard. Every day she was reminded of his once strong presence in her life.
"Evangeline stop this," she whispered harshly to herself. She blew out an exasperated breath, covered her face with the palms of her hands before leaning back in her seat. She wanted to get on the next airplane out of Llanview once they arrived but she understood how impractical that was. This was going to be more difficult than she first realized.
As Todd rounded the corner, retrieving his boarding pass, he took one last look around at the many inbound passengers streaming into then out of the airport. Most appeared to be exhausted; others were preoccupied with their androids either talking or texting profusely. Men, women and sleeping children. This flights carried the same anonymous sets of faces until...Could it be? For a brief moment everything slowed not to mention the beating of his heart. He stood rooted to his spot. Whatever noise surrounded him faded in the background. He blinked and whatever he saw disappeared in the crowd. No...No...No... he couldn't have imagined her. His mind wouldn't be so cruel to play this awful trick on him.
"Sir! Sir! Sir!"
Todd didn't hear; he was too busy running everywhere trying to find the face in the crowd without much success. A sudden burst of wind hit him as he exited the airport. His mind racing, pulse accelerating along with his breathing. His eyes scanned around the airport lot hoping to catch sight of her before she left. Again nothing.
"Evangeline I know you're here."
He retrieved his phone. "Carter get back here plans have changed..."