“Stop ransacking my house! Vangie’s not here, Sevin.”
“Then she told you where she was going.”
“Calm down. Tell me what’s going on. The last time I talked to Evangeline was two nights ago. She didn’t say anything to me about going anywhere.”
“I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this.”
“She left a letter with some hokey story about running away with some guy and needing to find herself away from Dodge City. You and I know that’s bullshit. You’re the only one who knows about us.”
“Where could she have gone?”
“I have no idea. She doesn’t have a pot to piss in.”
“Did you try her cell phone?”
“Yes. The number was disconnected.”
“What are the Suttons doing about it?”
“What can they do? She’s twenty-one. Lance was talking to the police, but they won’t take action because she left on her own accord. Olga talked Lance out of searching for her any further, saying Evangeline needed to learn from her mistakes.”
“She seemed particularly upset the last time she was here. I just assumed it was the usual stress of Elle’s situation and the effect it’s had on you two.”
“Swear you’re not lying to me, Addy. Swear you really don’t know where she is.”
“Boy…can’t you see that this is shaking me up just as much as you?”
“What the fuck am I going to do?”
“You’ll wait until she comes back to you. Mark my words. She will be back. Vangie loves you too much.”
“If she doesn’t come to her senses soon, I don’t know what’s going to be left of me when she comes back. I was losing it as it was. Ever since Elle’s accident...it’s hard on all of us. Evangeline’s presence on a daily basis was the only thing getting me through.”
“If there are days where you feel like you can’t go on, you come to me. I’m your sounding board. Don’t do anything stupid.”
“Thank you, Addy. Really…thank you.”
Addy was right about one thing; Evangeline would eventually come back. What Addy couldn’t have predicted, though, was that it would be five years later. By that time, it was too late to undo the damage that had been done.
Just over a year after Evangeline initially disappeared, Elle and I got married. It was either that or give up my job and the only home I had. Without Evangeline in the equation, those things that were simply necessary for survival became more important again. At that point, I truly believed Evangeline was gone for good. Not one word from her in a full year. Each day was like dying a slow death.
Aside from my own inner struggle, it was impossible to abandon Elle in her condition. She needed a provider and caretaker. To be honest, with each passing week, the love that belonged to Evangeline inside of me slowly festered into what felt like hate. I couldn’t understand how she could just walk away.
Marrying Elle was a way of putting a nail in the coffin of my dreams for Evangeline and me. Elle needed me. Even though I wasn’t in love with her, I decided to keep my original promise. My primary reason for not wanting to marry Elle had always been about how it would affect Evangeline. After a full year of waiting, it didn’t matter anymore whether or not one of my choices resulted in Evangeline suffering. In fact, anything I could have done to hurt her half as much as she’d hurt me seemed only fair.
Playing the role of the good husband to Elle wasn’t an easy task. It was a serious responsibility. After long days at the plant, I’d come home and do nothing but tend to her. I’d help her move around to avoid body sores and help her change her catheter.
It was also my responsibility to make her feel loved. I’d rub her shoulders, tell her she was beautiful to me and kiss her. Sometimes, that led to other things. Elle couldn’t have intercourse, but I did what I had to do as her husband to keep her satisfied. Nothing Elle and I did physically came even close to what I had with Evangeline. Guilt would try to creep in, and I’d have to remind myself that Evangeline was the one who abandoned me, not vice versa.
Even though I still kept some of my belongings at the guesthouse, Elle and I ended up living full time at the main house. It was easier because we’d made it handicap accessible. Lance had a ramp put in and arranged for some other modifications. It was just as well because the guesthouse was where the ghost of Evangeline lived. Every corner of that place reminded me of her, particularly the wall of my bedroom that served as the backdrop to both the night I drew her and the last night we were together when we fucked like animals against it.
My passions and desires took a backseat to my obligations as a husband to Elle. It was a tremendous amount of responsibility. I took care of her every single day for five years.
Until the day she died.
This was truly worse than my worst nightmare. Facing Sevin after five years was one thing. Having to see Elle lying in a coffin just a few feet away was another. That made facing him seem like a walk in the park.
As cowardly as my running away had been, nothing could keep me from one last look at my beautiful sister. At the same time, it was the ultimate punishment for my sins. After this experience¸ nothing would be able to hurt me anymore.
I felt the weight of Sevin’s stare as I walked over to Elle’s lifeless body.