“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Did she know you were coming over?”
“No. She has no clue.”
“She talks about you all of the time. She was heartbroken when you left.”
“What about Sevin? Did he ever mention me?”
“No. Anything I know of you came from Adelaide. Sevin won’t talk about you.”
“Yeah…” I nodded in understanding while my eyes felt heavier. “Can I wait here?”
I sat on the couch and looked around. Everything was the same. The kettle was still at the same spot on the stove. The house still smelled like patchouli. A rush of emotions pummeled through me because this place was the real home I’d abandoned.
The door opened, and I immediately stood up.
Addy was carrying a paper shopping bag and froze. Her lips were trembling as she mindlessly placed the bag down on the table.
I stood there speechless as the tears I’d been holding fell freely.
She shook her head in disbelief and suddenly rushed toward me, pulling me into a warm embrace. Her shoulders were shaking up and down. I’d never seen Addy cry like that, not even after Lorraine died. It was a testament to how much she loved me. Luke left the room to give us some privacy.
After holding me for several minutes, she pulled back. “I didn’t know if you were dead or alive.”
“Sevin never mentioned that he saw me at the funeral?”
I didn’t know where to begin. “Addy…”
“You know what I’m gonna ask, Vangie. And don’t you dare lie to me. Where the hell—”
“I’ve been living in Wichita.”
“Wichita? She repeated louder, “Wichita?”
“All this time, and you’ve been right here in Kansas, just a few hours away?”
“I know you want an explanation, but I’m afraid I can’t give it to you. All I can say is that leaving you was one of the worst parts for me.”
“I know you felt like you had no choice, but Sevin…” She stopped speaking and looked down at the ground.
“It completely wrecked him, Vangie. He’s not the same person.” Hearing that felt like a stab through my heart.
“I know. I could sense that. Not that I expected any different, but it’s hard to see it for myself.”
“Who are you living with?”
Her eyes widened. “Married? To who?”
“His name is Dean. I met him after I left. Daddy thinks I ran away to be with him, but you know that’s not true. I was on my own for a while, and then he sort of took me in.”
“Took you in? Were you homeless?”
“It never came to that, but it was close.”
“Vangie, listen. You know I love you. You may not be ready to tell me everything, but I expect a full explanation of why you did what you did to us. Leaving town is one thing, but leaving the way you did without telling us where you were…”
“I promise, Addy. Someday, I’ll tell you everything that happened while I was away. I just can’t right now. I can’t handle it all yet, okay? Please just know that I love you and never meant to hurt you. You have to believe that.”
“You know I’m a strong person, and you know I love you. You could have stayed away for twenty years, come back, and I’d welcome you with open arms. I’m not the one you owe an explanation to. I’m not the one who was completely destroyed. You need to face him.”
“He doesn’t want to see me.”
“Doesn’t matter. You still need to face him.”
“He hates me.”
“You really believe that? Let me tell you something. That boy looked everywhere for you. I was there. I saw how much he suffered after you left. That doesn’t mean he hates you; he’s angry, yes. But it’s not hate. You know what else happened while you were gone? That boy became a man. He owned up to his responsibilities, took care of your sister every day until she died. Even though you’d left him completely shattered, he found his inner strength. Love gone wrong can disguise itself as hate. Let me define Sevin’s hatred for you. It’s a self-protective mechanism for a love that hurts so bad he has to fight it every day. At the very least, he deserves an explanation.”
She was right, but it wasn’t going to happen today. Looking down at my watch, I knew if I didn’t get the car back by a certain time, Dean was going to kill me. “I have to go, Addy. I promise I’ll be back again soon.”
Addy made me give her my address. I didn’t want her to know where I lived because she’d probably be horrified at what she found, but I was done hiding. I couldn’t hurt the people I loved any more than I already had.
It was two weeks later before Dean would let me take the truck to Dodge City again. I kept telling myself that I didn’t have to go through with it, that I could change my mind at any time. That was the only way I was able to conjure up enough bravery to face Sevin.
It was late on a Sunday afternoon, cloudy and overcast. Bypassing my parents’ property, I parked Dean’s Dodge Ram in front of the guesthouse. Heart pounding, hands shaking, I stayed in the driver’s seat for the longest time before finally forcing myself out. Breathing heavily, I just stood there taking in the scenery. It was eerily quiet, the only sound my mother’s wind chimes in the distance. There were two cars parked outside, a truck I assumed was Sevin’s and a Toyota sedan.