I’d packed most of the large boxes into the truck already and was just doing a final inspection of my room when Lillian entered.
“I’m checking in to see if you’re all set.”
“Yup. I’m all ready to go. Just taking a last look around.”
“I really am proud of you for making the right decision. Your father is surely smiling down from heaven that you’ve found a nice Christian girl and that you’ll be living the kind of life that the Lord intended for you.”
“I guess,” I said, packing the last of my smaller items and keepsakes.
“Let me help you carry these last two containers downstairs.” She lifted one of the boxes.
“No! Don’t touch that.”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew I’d made a big mistake. Playing it cool would have been the smart move. Instead, Lillian was now clearly aware that there was something in there I didn’t want her to see.
Her eyes slowly moved toward mine in a suspicious side glance. “What exactly are you hiding in here that would cause such a knee jerk reaction?”
“Then surely you won’t mind my taking a look?”
“Actually, I do—”
Before I could plead with her, she opened the box.
She placed the box down on the bed and covered her mouth with one hand, lifting one of the sheets of paper with the other. “What is this, Sevin?”
“It’s exactly what it looks like.”
She sifted through the pile. “This is sick. Who…who are these women?”
“They’re not real.”
“They look real to me.”
“That wasn’t a compliment,” she shouted.
A slight nervous laughter escaped me. “What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to explain why you have all of these drawings of naked women in this box when you’re about to be entering into a marriage with someone who is pure and innocent. This is disgraceful!”
I looked into her eyes—something I rarely did—and said honestly, “I think they’re beautiful.”
“How do you think your father would feel if he saw this?”
Digging inside the other remaining box, I located the sketch my father had drawn of my mother all those years ago. Then, I walked over to Lillian and handed it to her.
“Here’s your answer, a parting gift from Dad.” My voice was shaky. “You thought you destroyed all traces of her, didn’t you? But as you can see…I learned from the best.”
I grabbed the last two boxes, leaving her with nothing but the picture of a naked Rose as I walked out the door and never looked back.
“Good girl.” I patted the dash of the old truck. Entering the final stretch of the long drive down US-281, I thanked my lucky stars that she hadn’t broken down.
Off the highway, I continued down a long seemingly endless dirt road that was supposed to lead to the Suttons’ ranch. The area reminded me of a wild frontier straight out of an old Western movie. I had actually read that the show Gunsmoke was filmed right in Dodge City.
On top of all this, my truck decided to start backfiring every once in a while. So, it was easy to imagine that I was in the middle of a gunfight. Maybe, I was just delirious after six hours in the car. After tearing through all of the snacks I’d brought, I was getting hungry. And horny.
I was so fucking horny.
I hadn’t been with anyone since Candace—the day my father died. And I knew that it was going to be several months before Elle and I were married. So, my hand and I would have to get even more acquainted than we already were. Thank God I’d have my own private space to take care of things. The small guesthouse next door to the Sutton residence was going to be my temporary home until Elle and I moved out after the wedding.
It was about five in the afternoon, and the sun was still shining brightly. A set of white wind turbines were the first sign of movement after miles of driving down the vast open space.
Eventually, there were more signs of life: cattle on the sides of the road, an occasional car passing by, and some houses began to sparsely appear. Grateful for the daylight, I couldn’t imagine breaking down out here in the middle of the night because there seemed to be no such thing as a cell phone tower in these parts. I hadn’t had service since exiting the highway. It was a good thing I had written directions instead of relying solely on the GPS app on my phone. I estimated that I only had a few miles left.
Something began to move toward me in the distance. At first, it looked like it could have been a stallion galloping with strands of wild black hair blowing in the wind. As it got closer, I realized it was a girl on a bicycle. She slowed down as she approached my truck, and I followed suit. Our eyes locked for a few brief seconds as she passed me in what seemed like slow motion. My eyes stayed glued to the rearview mirror as she rode into the distance. When my truck suddenly backfired, I hit the brakes after I noticed that she’d crashed the bike and had fallen onto the dirt road.
I put the truck in reverse, backed up and rushed out to help her.
“Are you okay? Let me help you up.”
“No, no, no. I’m fine,” she said as she got up without looking at me.
“You had me scared there for a minute. What happened to you?”
She seemed to stop to catch her breath for a second after she finally looked me in the eyes. I wasn’t sure what it meant. Framed by the heavy raven strands of hair was a stunning face now covered in dirt. She looked around my age.