“I’d better get back to the house, Elle. I’ll be quiet so they don’t wake up.”
“Daddy would kill me if he knew I was here.”
Swallowing my pride, I gave the response that any good sister would. “Don’t worry about it. You and Sevin should be getting to spend time together away from everyone’s watchful eyes. This is the only way you can do it.”
“I love you,” she said.
My chest constricted. “I love you, too.”
Sevin had his hands in his pockets as he stood near Daddy’s car which was parked in the driveway. He was looking down at the ground when he said, “I didn’t think she was going to show.”
“She was the only one of us that had a right to be at your house in the middle of the night.”
“I told her to come by because I really feel like I don’t know her sometimes. I—”
“Please,” I interrupted. “You don’t need an explanation. You two are getting married. This was just the reality check I needed.” I regretted that last admission as I abruptly started walking toward the main house.
“I need to get going.”
He called after me, “I never thanked you for the rose. That meant so much to me.”
I stopped and turned around briefly. “Goodnight, Sevin.”
Two days later, Lorraine was laid to rest. Mama had convinced Daddy to let me take my bike to the funeral.
After the service, I organized a lunch back at Adelaide’s place for her family, friends and shop employees. Lorraine’s parents had arranged a mercy meal at a restaurant for their own family and had forbidden Adelaide from attending. It was heartbreaking.
After everyone had left and I’d cleaned up all of the dishes, Adelaide and I were alone in her living room.
“Vangie, I can’t thank you enough for handling all of this. You’ve risked so much to be there for me this past month. It means more than you know.”
Pulling her into an embrace, I said, “It’s the least I can do. Sometimes, I feel closer to you than my own family. You’re my safe haven.” I let go of her and got up from the couch. “I’m gonna make us both some tea, alright?”
“Tell me something new and exciting, Vangie. Anything to take this pain away.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
“Tell me something funny. Make me laugh. Your perverted aunt pull anything new lately?”
Laughing, I accidentally spilled some of the tea water on my black dress. “Mama and Daddy won’t let her out of the room long enough to try.”
“I’ve been putting off asking you about you know who. Figured you’d tell me if anything new came up.”
“You can say his name.”
“What’s going on with Sevin?”
“What was the last thing I told you?”
“You told me about the rose you left at the door, which was very sweet. Honestly, though, it had me worried that maybe you were falling for him. That’s dangerous.”
“The bottom line is, you’re right. It is dangerous. I’ve been playing with fire, and that will only end in my getting burned. I realized a couple of nights ago that I can’t even be friends with him. My feelings are too strong. I need to step away and force myself to meet someone.”
“You can’t force love, sweetie.”
“Something has to give, Addy. Right now, I’ll trade love for a little bit of sanity.” Steeping the teabag, I confessed, “I told Mama I’d be open to pursuing a courtship.”
“I promise I won’t rush into anything that doesn’t feel right. It’s just something I think I should at least try. It might be good for me. It feels like the right time.”
Adelaide knew me better than my own mother. She could see through my act.
“My God. What has that boy done to you?”
Later that week, I was asking myself that very same question.
Daddy and Sevin had taken Friday off to start building the shed on our property.
I’d just returned from helping out at Addy’s shop when I parked my bike next to where they were working.
Sevin was wearing a baseball cap backwards and a plaid flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up. When he turned around, I realized he had the shirt completely unbuttoned, showcasing his glistening bare chest.
When he noticed me standing there, he nodded and lifted his hand in a wave. I waved back before rushing inside.
From the kitchen window, I continued watching him work: the way his muscles moved as he banged the hammer hard, the way his jeans hugged his ass when he bent down to pick something up, the way his shirt would open further when he’d lift the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his forehead. The muscles between my legs clenched as a painful desire pooled within my core.
My mother’s voice startled me. “Evangeline, will you please take these waters out to them?”
“She drove Imogene to a doctor’s appointment.”
Carrying two tall glasses of ice water, I walked over to where they were working.
Speaking over the noise, I shouted, “I have these waters. Where do you want me to put them?”
“Just put mine on the table over there,” Daddy yelled amidst the sound of his drill.
Sevin dropped the piece of wood he’d been holding in a loud clank. He walked over to me. “I’ll take mine now.” My nipples tingled when his hand brushed against mine as he took the glass from me.