“Do you still love her?”
I looked straight into her eyes and told the absolute truth. “Yes. I don’t think that will ever change.”
Nancy seemed truly affected by my revelation. “Wow. This is all so much to take in. I don’t know what to say.”
“To be honest, I’m not sure what to say, either. I don’t know where things stand right now. My life has been turned upside down in the past year. This is a big part of why I put up so many walls with you. You’ve been so good to me, and you deserved the truth.”
“When I met you, I thought what we had in common was that we had each lost the love of our life. Yours is very much still alive. This changes things for me. My feelings for you are strong, but I can unequivocally say that Mason was the love of my life. No one will ever replace him. If he were still walking this earth, and I were in your situation, I would need closure.”
“What are you getting at?”
“You obviously have unfinished business. I really like you, Sevin. Really like you. I would even venture to say I might be falling in love with you. My feelings have been growing, but I need to protect myself. Things can’t get to a level where I could end up with a broken heart. I can’t handle that after losing Mason. I think it’s best for me to step away for a while until you figure things out. I mean, can you honestly look me in the eyes and tell me there’s no chance that something could ever develop between you and her again?”
“I’m sorry, Nance.”
The chaste kiss she gave me on the lips felt a lot like goodbye. “It sounds like the story isn’t finished. If you’re able to close the door on this chapter in your life, and I’m still around, please come find me.”
The story wasn’t finished.
Deep in my heart, I’d always known that. Nancy being out of the picture allowed me more time than ever alone with my thoughts. And all thoughts pointed to Evangeline. One evening, the urge to contact her became too strong to fight. Reaching over to my nightstand, I picked up my phone and texted her.
When can you talk?
A full thirty minutes went by before she responded.
Evangeline: Will you still be up at midnight?
Evangeline: I have some time right after my shift before he picks me up. I can call you then?
Sevin: I’ll be here.
The moon was bright as I gazed out into the starry night while anxiously awaiting her call. My window was wide open, letting in a cool breeze and the sound of crickets. At twelve on the nose, my cell phone vibrated over my comforter, and my heart came alive.
“Hi. Is everything okay?”
“Everything is fine,” I said.
“It’s so good to hear your voice.”
“So, you’re done for the night?”
“Yes. I finish at midnight. Then, I hang around and decompress until 12:30.”
I relaxed into my pillow. “What do you think about when you’re on stage?”
“Anything but what I’m actually doing. That way, it goes by pretty fast.”
“No part of you enjoys it?”
“Not really.” After a long pause, she asked, “Are you disappointed in me? For choosing to do this for money?”
“It makes me jealous, but that’s my own issue. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You have an amazing body. As long as no one is touching you or hurting you, I’m okay with it.”
“There was this one guy once…in a hood…he touched me. He terrified me a little.”
I got an adrenaline rush for a split second, thinking she was referring to someone else before it sunk in that she was talking about me.
“That guy terrified me, too. I don’t ever want to go back to that place with you ever again…that place of anger.”
Evangeline changed the subject. “How are things with Nancy?”
“Things are on hold.”
“What happened?” When I didn’t answer, she must have sensed my apprehension. “Sevin?”
Exhaling, I wasn’t sure whether to admit to everything. “You remember my drawings?”
“Of course. I still have the one you drew of me locked away in a place no one can find it.”
“Well, Nancy found some of them.”
“She got mad at you and left because of that?”
“You’re gonna think I’m weird.”
This was starting to feel a little nostalgic, like one of our old conversations.
“It had been so long, Evangeline, since I’d drawn a woman. Everything that happened with Elle, I didn’t have any alone time. I hadn’t picked up my pencil in years until I saw you at The Pink Lady. I returned from that trip kind of fucked up. I was so angry at myself, shocked, frustrated, sad, longing for you—aroused. So fucking aroused. I started drawing you that next night and the next one and the next. I kept on with it any spare chance I got. It was sort of like spending time with you in a strange way. Anyway, Nancy was looking under my bed one day and found the sketchbook.
“Oh my God. She knew they were of me?”
“Yes. So, I used that opportunity to tell her about everything.”
“About the fact that you have more naked women stashed away than Hugh Hefner?”
“No, not about that. Wiseass.” I smiled. “About you and me.”