“I guess you have a point.”
“The real point is that I don’t want anything to change between us, Evangeline. Ever.”
“It won’t, Elle,” I said, pulling her into a hug.
Taking in her sweet perfume that was just as delicate as she was, I closed my eyes tightly and silently vowed never to let anything come between us. My sister was more important than anything. That meant taking steps to ensure that whatever feelings I had for Sevin were eradicated immediately. There really was only one choice. I needed to find someone to take my mind off of him. If I wanted to continue living under my parents’ roof, though, there was only one way to go about that. It would be their way or no way.
I knocked on the door to my mother’s sewing room that afternoon after we’d all returned from Sunday service. “Do you have a minute?”
“Sure, honey. Come in. Is everything alright?”
“I’ve just been thinking about some stuff lately. I wanted to talk to you about it in private.”
She’d been sewing a skirt on her black classic Singer machine and stopped what she was doing, placing the fabric to the side. “Alright.”
I let out a deep breath and stared out the window at the rain falling outside. “With Elle and Sevin getting married, I’ve been pondering my future a lot. I know I told you I wasn’t interested at all in being courted…”
“When you said you never wanted to get married, that was very upsetting to your father and me, you know. What does that mean for your future…turning into an old childless spinster? Look at your Aunt Imogene. She is a prime example of what can happen to people who lose their way in life and don’t adhere to God’s will.”
I wasn’t going to try to argue with my mother about poor Imogene, who had nothing to do with this. Imogene had issues, but I doubted they had anything to do with her never marrying.
“Well, at the time, when we last discussed this, I was strongly against arranged marriage. I’m still not a hundred percent sure, but I think I’d like to at least try seeing what my options are.”
“You want to be courted? Because your father is not going to allow you to date traditionally without marriage as the ultimate goal and outcome.”
“I know what his rules are. You don’t have to explain it.”
“Well, you know there are a lot of nice young men from our church around your age, Evangeline, but they’re looking for wives, good homemakers who are ready to settle down. You have a very restless personality and are very hard to satisfy. Marriage is for life. Even though we want you to get married, you also have to be sure that it’s what you want before entering into a courtship. It wouldn’t be fair to the man if you didn’t take it seriously.”
I want love. But right now, what I really need is a distraction. I’ll do anything for it even if it means going against everything that I believe.
“Like I said, I’m open to options. I have my hesitations about going this route, but I also don’t want to be alone. I won’t know if the courtship route will work for me if I don’t try. But if I try and fail, I have a right to change my mind, don’t I?”
“Daddy and I will talk about it, alright? You will always have a choice, but once you decide to pursue a courtship, it really needs to be taken seriously.”
Mama and I continued talking until the rain cleared. Elle, Sevin and my father had taken a trip to a home improvement warehouse about an hour away. Sevin was supposed to be helping Daddy build a new shed the following weekend, so they were getting all of the supplies.
Opting to take advantage of the quiet, I decided to take a stroll around the perimeter of the ranch to clear my head until dinnertime. Veering off the property, I walked down the road to the nearest neighbor’s estate. Amidst the fog and lingering drizzle, I came upon a beautiful rose bush, a striking cluster of red that stood out amidst a black and white day. I had never noticed it before.
I couldn’t help thinking of Sevin’s mother, how he hadn’t talked about the circumstances of her death with anyone but me. As much as this day had been about planning ways to move on from my infatuation, I never really stopped thinking about him.
Picking a long-stemmed rose off the bush, I looked behind my shoulders to make sure no one had seen. Smelling it, I decided that this would be a symbolic moment. I would take this rose and leave it on the doorstep to the guesthouse to let him know how much his sharing the story of his mother meant to me. I would then put it all behind me—everything that happened from the moment I met him to our encounter in the barn. The gesture would also symbolize my own vow to make peace with my sins and weaknesses, do the right thing and move on with my life.
At first, I thought maybe it was a coincidence and that Elle was the one who left me that rose. When I called her later and asked her if she’d placed anything at my doorstep, she said she hadn’t. Elle had also been with Lance and me all afternoon and had gone straight to the main house from the car, so it couldn’t have been her anyway.
I didn’t want to believe it was Evangeline. I’d already been trying so hard to control my thoughts about her after our talk. The fact that she’d been thinking about me, too—about my mother—reignited all of the feelings I’d been trying to fight.
The entire day out with Elle, I’d been rationalizing with myself and came to the conclusion that there was no way in hell that my attraction to Evangeline could ever be acted upon. So, the only choice was to find a way to stop it.