Swallowing, I said, “Really…”
“Yeah. The next time we see her will be the wedding.”
Feeling numb, I didn’t know how to feign surprise. How the fuck could I pretend that the news of Evangeline leaving hadn’t already shattered my world just a few moments ago?
Elle continued, “I don’t understand why she has to leave so soon. The wedding is only weeks away. I was really hoping she’d at least stay until then.”
The second mention of our impending wedding sent waves of nausea through me.
She approached. “Sevin, are you okay?”
I stood there speechless, feeling like I was about to blow.
“Have you been drinking?”
“Just a little.”
Despite the smell of alcohol, my angst had to have been written all over my face. I looked into her sweet eyes, and reality just hit me like a ton of bricks. Everything seemed so clear in that moment. It was funny how stress could fog your brain for months on end. Then all of a sudden, clarity could just come out of nowhere.
I couldn’t go through with it.
I couldn’t marry her.
I needed to end it.
When Lance first proposed this arrangement, it seemed to make sense. So much had changed since then. I had changed. What I wanted changed. What I needed changed. And even if Evangeline never allowed herself to be with me, Elle would always remind me of her sister. And if I couldn’t have Evangeline, I couldn’t be reminded of her every day for the rest of my life. It wasn’t fair to put Elle in that predicament, either. She deserved better than to marry a man who was secretly desperately in love with her sister.
I needed to buy myself some time. Breaking this news to the Suttons was going to have to be handled very carefully. It would devastate them, but better now than ten years down the line. There would still be time for Lance to find a replacement to take over the business.
Finally answering her, I said, “Actually, things aren’t okay. I have to go back to Oklahoma for a while.”
“What?” Her eyes widened. “Why?”
I lied, “My brother is going through some stuff. He needs me. I’ll be gone for a few days at the very least.”
“When did you find out about this?”
“Well, okay. Um…when do you leave?”
It was hard to believe it was actually coming to this. Deep down, from almost the very beginning of my time here, I knew that going through with the wedding was wrong. I still always believed I’d go along with it.
I really needed the advice of someone older and wiser. Times like these were when I really wished my father were still here.
Driving around Dodge City aimlessly later that afternoon, it was unclear where I was headed. With my small suitcase in the back of my truck, I had no real intention of actually driving the several hours to Lillian’s house in Oklahoma.
I finally decided to look for a hotel about an hour out of town. I just needed a quiet place where I could think straight and come up with a plan about how to approach things with the Suttons. The thought of that conversation made me ill.
As much as I knew it was wrong, one final stop would be necessary before getting out of Dodge.
Elle had mentioned that Evangeline was working a final shift at Addy’s car repair shop. Since I was leaving town for a few days, she would be gone to Missouri by the time I returned.
It felt like I needed to see her more than I needed my next breath. It was the only thing I was sure of as I drove around lost in my thoughts. I didn’t know what the months ahead would mean for me or where I’d end up. I just knew I couldn’t leave town without one last moment with her.
She would be pissed at me, but I didn’t give a fuck. If I was about to give up everything because I loved her, she was going to have to face me one last time.
Say goodbye to my face.
I’d never been over to Adelaide’s. When I parked my truck across the gravelly road from her property, I hesitated before going inside. I took everything in, thinking about how this was the place that Evangeline seemed to love most in the entire world.
Addy’s small gray house stood adjacent to the shop, which was a bigger structure with three large garage bays. The sounds of metal clanking and laughing could be heard from inside.
A husky female voice startled me. “Can I help you?”
“Sevin,” she answered. “I know who you are.”
“I do.” She looked me up and down. “Wow.”
“I take it, you’re Addy.”
“Jesus H. Christ, Vangie wasn’t kidding.”
“She said you were handsome. She didn’t say you were the kind of handsome that might just turn an old lesbo like me straight.”
Addy made me smile, which wasn’t an easy task. I could totally see why Evangeline was drawn to this woman.
“I know why you’re here.”
“You’re here for her.” She smiled. “Vangie is in the garage working on a tune-up.” She nudged her head toward the house. “You want to come inside…chat with me for a bit?”
The firm look in her eyes told me she wasn’t asking me to come in; she was telling me. She was a big woman, not someone to mess with. Even stronger was her personality. It felt like I could feel her spirit if that were possible. This felt no different to me than meeting Evangeline’s mother for the first time. Addy probably knew more about her than anyone.