Even though we never talked about it, I knew she’d come to expect me, because she stopped looking behind her shoulder when she’d hear me approaching. She knew it was me. In the beginning, you could tell my being there was making her tense. With each day, though, comfortable silence replaced nerves as we ran together for miles.
Some mornings, we’d stop in the middle of the route and sit down on the grass just like we’d done when we first met. We’d just talk. We’d talk about anything and everything: our similar childhoods, music, my life back in Oklahoma, her hopes for the future. She wanted to eventually take over Adelaide’s shop when her friend retired but knew the expectation was that she’d get married and be a homemaker, maybe work part-time for the family business at most. I’d also confessed to her all of my insecurities about being able to handle the responsibilities that would be expected of me someday at Sutton Provisions.
When we’d resume running and get to the last half-mile, I’d go ahead of her to make sure no one saw us together. I continued to convince myself that we were doing nothing wrong, that it was just innocent time spent with a friend. Yet, the second I returned to my house, I knew better because I’d be counting the minutes until the next morning.
Elle and I were sneaking more time alone together, but it wasn’t helping me move on from my feelings for Evangeline. That was scaring the shit out of me. Conversations with Elle were different, never running that deep and always a bit contrived. I wanted so badly to develop stronger feelings for her, but it just wasn’t happening naturally.
The running with Evangeline went on for about a month until one particular morning when midway through our trek, she suddenly stopped.
Her breathing was labored. “I can’t do this anymore, Sevin.”
I panicked, thinking she was in physical pain. “What’s wrong? What happened? Are you having trouble breathing? Do you have a cramp?”
“What is it?”
“I can’t do this with you anymore. It has to stop.”
Even though I damn well knew the reason, I asked, “Why?”
“Because I fall asleep every night willing the morning to come quickly. Every day I want this time with you more and more. And one day soon, I’m going to turn around waiting for your footsteps, and they’re not going to be there. I need to stop this before that day comes. I need you to stop running with me. Please.” Her moist eyes were pleading.
My heart felt like it was being choked, because she’d just described exactly how I felt about these mornings. It finally clicked in that moment that her feelings for me were just as strong. I needed to protect her from getting hurt. From now on, that was going to be more important than my selfish need to be around her. I simply nodded then watched as she ran away into the distance.
Over the next couple of weeks, I barely saw Evangeline. Either she was working upstairs at the plant or helping Addy at the shop. We’d see each other at dinner; that was about it. Things were a lot like they’d been in the very beginning. I missed her something fierce, but I knew that this was for the best.
With Emily as our chaperone, Elle and I were out walking, holding hands one early evening before supper when she dropped more than one bomb on me.
“I have to ask you something.”
I squeezed her hand. “Shoot.”
“Are you busy August 17th?”
“What’s August 17th?”
“The hall we wanted for the wedding had a cancellation. That date will work out perfectly with the availability of the church.”
The fact that we hadn’t been able to find an available venue to accommodate the size of the wedding was the main reason we hadn’t set a date yet.
“That’s in four months.”
“Yes. Is that too long…too soon?”
Despite the unsettling feeling in my gut, I said, “No. It’s good.”
“So, we should book it?”
“I’m so happy right now!” She hugged me. “I can’t wait to tell Mama! I love you so much.”
“I’m glad you’re happy.”
“Emily, are you ready to be a junior bridesmaid?”
“How come Evangeline gets to be the maid of honor?”
My stomach turned at the idea of Evangeline walking down the aisle at my wedding to Elle.
Elle playfully mussed up her sister’s hair. “Because she’s older, silly. Maybe by then, she’ll be engaged herself.”
We’d been swinging our arms, and I inadvertently stopped. “Why do you say that?”
“You know Callum Hughes?”
“That’s your father’s friend who invests in the business.”
“Actually, it’s his son, Callum Junior.”
“What about him?”
“Evangeline and he have been talking over the phone.”
My jaw stiffened. “Really…”
“Yeah. I think they’re considering a courtship. He’s actually coming to dinner tomorrow night.”
Evangeline looked nervous as she carried items from the kitchen to the dining room. She refused to look at me, but that didn’t stop my eyes from following her.
She was wearing a beautiful lavender dress, which was not her normal style. She’d wear skirts, but they were usually casual. She also had her hair styled into long curls. It was really hard to look away.