“What’s your favorite meal in the whole world, Sevin?” Olga asked.
“You mean, besides chicken and dumplings?” I joked.
“Probably ribeye steak with garlic mashed potatoes.”
“You hear that, Elle? You’ll have to learn how to make it.”
After helping them set the table in the dining room, we were just about ready to sit down to dinner when the front door slammed shut. Lance rushed down the hall, and I could hear him yelling.
“You’ve got some nerve coming home this late, Evangeline! Your mother and Elle could have used your help with dinner, you know.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy. Please just don’t yell. Not tonight. I had a mishap. It wasn’t intentional.”
“You have us worried sick that you’re gonna get yourself killed riding that bike in the dark. Well, get on in here now and meet your sister’s fiancé.”
“I just need to use the bathroom. I’ll be right there.”
Elle, Emily and I were already seated when Lance came in and took his place at the head of the table. When Olga sat down, Lance said, “Sevin, you want to lead us in prayer?”
“Yes, sir.” I closed my eyes and took Elle’s hand. “Dear Lord, Heavenly Father, we thank you for this food. Feed our souls on the bread of life and help us to do our part in kind words and loving deeds. We ask in Jesus' name. Amen.”
“Amen,” they all said in unison.
When I opened my eyes, for a quick second, I seriously thought I was hallucinating. That was the only possible explanation because before I’d closed them, she wasn’t there. Now, she was standing before me, looking exactly the way I’d left her, frazzled, disheveled and more beautiful if that were even possible. I blinked. She was still there. I blinked again.
What the fuck was going on?
My heart pounded out of my chest as I silently mouthed, “Sienna?”
She quickly shook her head frantically, a silent message for me not to say anything further.
Lance was the first to speak. “Sevin, this is our other daughter, Evangeline. She’s very sorry she’s late.”
Her hand trembled as she reached it out to me. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Evangeline.” It came out more like a question. I took her hand and squeezed it in an attempt to communicate my anger and confusion—a silent what the fuck? I wasn’t even sure if I was angry at her or at the sick joke life was playing on me right now.
“Why are you so late?” Elle asked her.
Unable to look at her anymore, I stared down at my plate.
“A friend needed help,” I heard Evangeline say.
My chest tightened. Evangeline. There was no Sienna. I was still processing everything, trying to figure out why she even lied about her name. At first, I wondered if maybe she did it because she knew who I was. But that made no sense because she’d freaked out when I told her my name was Sevin.
Emily was talking to Lance about some of the American history she learned in class. Elle and her mother were discussing a recipe. The sounds of their conversations, and the clanking of silverware all blended together. What was most deafening, though, was that which was unspoken. At one point, I looked up at her across the table from me, and we made eye contact before she looked down in shame.
The dinner went by in a blur. Managing to force myself to eat the chicken and dumplings, I wasn’t able to stomach the lemon merengue pie for dessert. I mashed it up so that it looked eaten.
Unable to take any more of this, I needed to process it alone. My chair skidded against the wood floor as I got up. “I think I’d better turn in early tonight. Tomorrow is my first day at the plant, and I want to be alert.”
“Looking forward to showing you around, Sevin,” Lance said.
“Thank you so much for dinner.”
Elle stood up. “Can I walk him back to the guesthouse?”
“Sure, honey,” Olga said. “Evangeline, go on ahead with them.”
She’d been looking down and lifted her head. “Excuse me?”
“Please accompany Elle and Sevin to the guesthouse.”
“I’m really not feeling well. Can Emily go?”
“No. You’ve been extremely rude tonight. I think you need to go and apologize to them for your behavior while you’re at it.”
She looked humiliated, and my heart clenched. She reluctantly got up and followed us out the door. Elle grabbed my hand as Evangeline quietly walked alongside us.
Elle turned to her sister. “Did something happen to Lorraine? Is that why you’re acting like this?”
“No. She’s not doing well, but nothing’s changed.”
“Then, what is it?”
“It’s nothing, okay? Please just drop it. I promise, nothing is wrong.”
Feeling compelled to rescue her from an inquisition, I said, “People are allowed to have bad days, Elle.”
Evangeline looked over at me for the first time since we started walking, and our eyes met briefly. Her expression softened as if to thank me for deterring any further prying.
We arrived at my doorstep, and I intentionally didn’t invite them in because the walk itself was already too much stress for one night. “Thanks for walking me. I appreciate it.”
Elle was still holding my hand and swung it playfully. “See you in the morning for breakfast.”
“Alright. Good night.” I stayed in my doorway watching them walk away. Elle ran ahead of her, and Evangeline surprised me when she briefly turned around to meet my stare.