“I do, too,” he said.
“You believe what she said…or you have different wants and needs?”
“Both.” His stare was penetrating. “So, answer my question.”
“What do I want?”
I sat up straighter and briefly closed my eyes to gather my thoughts before the words just seemed to pour out of me. “I want to be free, independent from my parents. I want to experience love, but I don’t want to settle. I want to be loved back as much as I love someone, but I don’t want that relationship to define me. I want to make a difference in the world, but I don’t know how, and that frustrates me to no end. I want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want to make love in the rain someday and…skydive! I want to die knowing that I didn’t live in fear but that I lived life to the fullest with no regrets. I don’t want to feel guilty about being true to myself. I want too much, to the point where sometimes I feel like I’m gonna burst. It’s overwhelming.”
The weight of his stare was overpowering as he absorbed my words. He didn’t say anything for the longest time before he simply whispered, “You’re amazing.”
Even though I’d never felt more connected to someone than I did to him in that moment, it felt like we were starting to cross a line. It compelled me to say, “Elle’s gonna be a good wife. She’ll make you really happy, Sevin.” I swallowed the bitter taste of those words and suddenly got up, straightening my skirt. “I have to go back to the house before they come looking for me.”
His tense expression from seconds earlier had transformed into one of surprise and disappointment at my sudden desire to leave. “Okay. Go on ahead.” As I brushed hay off my skirt and started to walk away, he called out, “Evangeline…”
I turned around. “Yes?”
“Thank you for answering my question. I hope every single one of those things comes true.”
Sleep was impossible that night between worrying about Lorraine and thinking about Sevin. When he asked me that question, I’d just blurted out all of the dreams kept hidden my entire life. I couldn’t get over how he made me feel. For the first time, I truly sensed those feelings were definitely reciprocal. The way he looked at me confirmed that our connection wasn’t all in my head. That was a dangerous realization.
This was the one man my mind knew it could never fall for, and yet my heart had other ideas. It had already fallen—hard and fast. As much as I tried, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I was desperate for a solution. Wanting someone you knew with absolute certainty you could never have was the very definition of agony.
When Elle walked into my bedroom the next morning, I could barely look her in the eyes.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Why?” I asked, playing with my hair as I always did when I was anxious.
“You haven’t been yourself over the past couple of weeks. Everyone has noticed.”
“Everything going on with Adelaide and Lorraine…it’s taking a toll. I’ll be okay. Don’t worry about me. I’m sorry if I’ve seemed distant. How are you?”
“I didn’t have a chance to talk to you yesterday, but something sort of major happened.”
“What? Is everything okay?”
Elle smiled, her face turning red. “More than okay.”
“Well, what is it?”
“I kissed him.”
“You kissed Sevin?” My heart felt like it fell to my stomach.
She nodded. “You look shocked.”
“I…I am. I thought you were waiting.”
“I was. I don’t know what came over me. It was his birthday, and I really wanted to show him how much he means to me. Mama and Daddy would kill me if they knew, but I don’t regret it. Not one single bit.”
“What did he do?”
“He kissed me back. It felt so good to kiss him. It just made me even more certain that he’s the one.”
The intensity of the jealousy I was experiencing was a wake-up call. Any other sister would have asked for details, but I was doing everything in my power not to think about them kissing. This was just a drop in the bucket compared to what would be coming as Sevin and Elle’s relationship evolved. Getting rid of these feelings was not just an option but an urgent necessity.
Feigning happiness, I smiled. “Wow. That’s great.”
“I’ve been waiting for a moment to tell you, but you’ve been so busy.”
“Well, I’m glad you told me.”
She sat on the edge of my bed and crossed her legs. “I don’t want us to grow apart.”
“What do you mean? Why would that ever happen?”
“When Sevin and I get married. I don’t want us to lose our connection. Even when I move away, I need to be able to talk to you about stuff…like sex. I’m not gonna know what I’m doing.”
A wave of nausea and jealousy overwhelmed me. “I don’t have any more experience than you do in that area.”
“Are you kidding? You may not have real experience, but you’ve been studying it in your own way for as long as I can remember.”
Elle was referring to the fact that I had always been more innately sexually curious than she was. I’d check out graphic romance novels from the library in secret, hiding them from my parents, sometimes forcing Elle to listen as I read some of the passages to her with a flashlight under the covers of the bed. So, while I hadn’t had actual sex, I had definitely lived vicariously through fictional characters.