Collapsing on her bed, I broke down and spoke into her pillow, “I’m so sorry. I promise you, I would trade places with you if I could.”
Breathing in, trying in vain to find some recognition of her scent, I sobbed for what must have been close to an hour. I suppose wherever she was, she knew everything now.
When I finally emerged from the room, I decided to take a quick ride to the nearest grocery store. Emily had made me promise to make her these cookies I used to bake for her when she was younger. It was the least I could do after having abandoned her for much of her formative years.
His truck was parked in front of the guesthouse, so I assumed he was inside. A few seconds later, just as I was getting into my car, headlights from an oncoming vehicle hit me in the face.
I froze as I realized it was Nancy’s Toyota. They both got out, slamming the doors shut. Sevin didn’t notice me at first. I wasn’t going to say anything, but then he turned around and spotted me standing in front of the SUV.
From across the grass, our eyes met. He was silent as I walked from my parents’ driveway over to his.
“Hi,” I said.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m spending the weekend with Mama and Daddy.”
“You didn’t tell me you were coming.”
“I didn’t think you’d want to see me.”
He looked at his girlfriend. “This is Nancy. Nancy, this is…”
She interrupted, “I know. Evangeline. Your sister-in-law. We met briefly.”
I nodded. “Well, I better let you two get on with your night. I’m just going to do some food shopping.”
Hurrying away, I escaped into the car before anyone could say another word. Glancing over briefly again at Sevin, I noticed he hadn’t moved from the same spot as he continued to look at me.
When I returned from the store, her car was still parked outside. It stayed there the rest of the evening. Even though I tried not to focus on it, it was constantly on my mind as I spent time with my sister, baking cookies and catching up on all of the things I’d missed during her teenage years.
Before going to bed, I looked out the window one last time and noticed that the car was still there. Nancy was definitely spending the night. The lights at the guesthouse were on. I wondered whether Sevin was thinking about me or worse, whether Nancy was helping him forget.
The next morning, I laced up my sneakers and pounded the pavement outside of my family’s property for the first time in years. The sun hadn’t yet fully risen, and the morning fog greeted me in all of its glory.
I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d gone out for a jog. Gasping for air, it was clear that my body was no longer used to running.
Everything looked and smelled the same as I remembered. The sound of imaginary footsteps played in my head, footsteps I knew would no longer be appearing behind me. My chest tightened as I thought about our secret runs back when things were so different. As scandalous as everything was, the memories seemed inexplicably innocent. I would have given anything to go back and change so many things. Could I have changed falling in love with him? Probably not.
I would have definitely stopped Elle from riding Magdalene that day. That was the thing I was sure I would change.
Tears started to fall. What was it about jogging that made me so emotional? The endorphins always brought out my feelings in full force, yet also provided me with clarity. How had I stayed away from home for so long?
I made it about two miles before deciding to turn back around. My body wasn’t used to this level of exercise anymore. It was important to pace myself, or I wouldn’t survive the two miles back.
Halfway through, it felt like making it all the way home was an impossibility. My heart was beating out of control. Maybe it was overexertion. Or maybe it was more of a premonition. Because soon after, I heard them. Footsteps. Not coming from behind me but coming toward me.
Then, I saw him.
Hooded gray sweatshirt.
Big sneakers digging into the dirt.
My heartbeat accelerated with every step Sevin took toward me, and then I completely lost my ability to breathe.
Resting my hands on my thighs for balance, I tried to catch my breath.
His footsteps slowed to a halt in the gravel. The next thing I knew, I felt him lift me up. Weightless, I rested my head into his chest as he walked, carrying me several feet until he put me down on the grass.
Taking out a bottle, he said, “What did I tell you about running without water?”
He handed it to me. I downed half the bottle as he watched every movement of my mouth.
Sevin twisted the cap closed and dug the bottle into the dirt.
He wrapped his arms around his shins. His sleeves were rolled up, and for the first time, I noticed the letter E tattooed on his right forearm. My heart skipped a beat. He must have gotten that sometime after Elle died.
Clearing my throat, I asked, “Where’s Nancy?”
“She’s sleeping back at the house.”
I nodded silently.
“Is your husband with you?”
“No.” Wanting to skirt the subject of Dean, I said, “Thank you for not telling my parents about… you know…”
“Nothing good could possibly come from them knowing.”
A long moment of silence passed as we both looked around, at our feet, up at the sky, anywhere but at each other.
I felt it coming.