He looked up at the ceiling then back at me. “Let’s try this again.”
“Hi, I’m Sevin,” he said, holding out his hand.
I took it. “Evangeline.”
We were still palm to palm. The sensation of his firm grip sent what felt like waves of energy and desire through the core of my body.
Why did hello feel like goodbye? Goodbye to the illusion of the man I met and hello to the reality of what our relationship would have to be moving forward.
“We’re going to see each other every day. I’m going to be part of your family. So, we have to get used to this, Evangeline.”
I let go of his hand, feeling sick at the thought. “I’ll try, okay?”
“You’ll stop pretending to be looking at yourself in the reflection of your plate at the dinner table?”
“You’ll stop pretending you have to go to the bathroom every five minutes?”
“And you’ll stop running the other way, tripping over people, when you see me at the plant?”
“Good...because I hate it.”
I nodded and looked at my watch. “I’d better get back.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later,” he said without moving from his spot as he watched me walk backwards towards the door.
It was hard not to look down at his chest one last time before I turned around. If I thought I had a problem stopping my lustful thoughts about him before, it was going to be nearly impossible now.
Dinner that evening turned into an interesting experience for multiple reasons.
I’d been dressing a salad in the kitchen while Mama took a tray of kielbasa and potatoes out of the oven. Elle and Daddy hadn’t returned yet from picking up Aunt Imogene. They were due back any minute.
Sevin walked into the kitchen. “Hey, Evangeline…Olga.”
He’d showered after his run. His hair was wet, and he was wearing a form-fitting maroon pullover. His signature fragrance overrode the smell of the food. Sevin was suddenly all I could smell. It was dizzying.
“Will you please let me help with something, Olga?” he asked.
“You can help Evangeline set the table if you insist.”
“I do. Thanks.”
He quietly followed me into the dining room, carrying the flatware. The tension in the air was thick as he walked behind me around the oval table, setting down silverware after each plate I’d put down. It was like some weird game of musical chairs where awkward silence replaced the music. The hairs on my back stiffened. We weren’t saying anything, but it was as if I could feel the weight of a thousand words along with the heat of his body so close behind me.
When I noticed he’d just put a fork where the spoon was supposed to go, I switched it. “The forks go on this side, actually.” My hand was shaking. I couldn’t believe how little control I had over myself.
Noticing my nerves, he suddenly placed his hand over mine and whispered, “Stop.”
Chills ran through me. My heart started to beat faster. My nipples hardened. I hated my body for responding to him with equal amounts of fear and lust.
I turned to him, his hand still over my knuckles. It felt like I couldn’t breathe as he just looked at me.
My mother’s footsteps caused Sevin to move his hand off mine with lightning speed.
Mama entered, and we continued setting the table as if our stolen moment hadn’t happened.
“So, while we’re waiting for Daddy and Elle, I just thought I’d take the time to explain a little bit about my mother’s sister, Imogene.”
I cleared my throat. “Okay…”
“You met her a long time ago, Evangeline. She was well back then. The reason she’s going to be living with us is because her mind is a little bit gone now. She has no children, so I’m her next of kin.”
“Is it like dementia?” Sevin asked.
“Not entirely. I should clarify, Imogene hasn’t really lost her mind as much as her filter over the years. She was in a car accident a few years ago and hasn’t ever been the same. She says and does some inappropriate things, sometimes very sinful things. I have to believe that the Lord will forgive her for it because she’s not well. You need to learn to ignore what she says or does. I just wanted to warn you while I had the chance.”
About five minutes later, the front door opened.
My mother clasped her hands together and adorned a fake smile. “Imogene!” she said lovingly as she greeted her elderly aunt.
Imogene had long, white hair that was tied into a single braid. Her face was quite wrinkled, making her striking blue eyes stand out even more. When she smiled at Mama, I could see that all of her teeth were gone.
“It’s wonderful to see you again, Aunt Imogene,” I said.
“And you, dear.” So far, she seemed like a normal old lady.
Elle walked over to Sevin and took his hand. “Imogene, I want you to meet my fiancé, Sevin Montgomery.”
Sevin stuck out his hand. “Wonderful to meet you.”
“My, my, you have big hands. Elle’s going to be a lucky girl. If she’s smart, she’s already discovered what that means.” She winked, flashing her toothless grin before my mother suddenly whisked her away to show her the bedroom where she’d be staying.