Recently, I’d accepted the fact that Evangeline could pretty much rip out my heart, stomp on it, then feed it to me, and I’d still hand it back to her. She owned it.
“Are you hungry?” I asked. “I can make you something.”
“Starving. But let me cook for you. I make a mean breakfast. Do you have eggs and stuff like that?”
“Yeah. I just went shopping.”
Evangeline wasted no time getting to work in the kitchen, whisking eggs, popping bread in the toaster, frying bacon. A tightness in my chest developed as I watched her looking so domestic in my house. It was a side of her I never got to experience. It felt so good having her here.
At one point, she’d just placed the scrambled eggs onto our plates when she opened the cupboard.
I walked over to help her. “What do you need?”
“Do you have salt?”
“It should be in there.”
She was shuffling through things then suddenly stopped. She was holding the box of Pop Tarts. “These are dated from over five years ago. Are these the same ones you had the last time I was here?”
I looked into her eyes and whispered, “Yeah.”
“I don’t understand.”
“What’s there not to understand?”
“You never threw them away…”
I shrugged. “I couldn’t. Stupid, right? Like somehow having them was going to make you magically come back?”
The sadness in her eyes cut through me. I didn’t mean for her to find them.
She shocked the shit out of me when she suddenly opened one of the individual packages and began stuffing her mouth with the stale pastry.
“What are you doing? Are you fucking crazy? Those are just artifacts. They’re not meant to be eaten.”
“You’re right. I should have been here…to eat these with you,” she said with her mouth full. Her eyes were filling with tears as she chewed.
“I didn’t keep them so you could sicken yourself with them five years later!”
“If that happens, I deserve it. I’m a bad person. You have no idea. I—”
“Evangeline, stop.” I took the box, threw it in the trash and pulled her into me. “You don’t deserve botulism.” I laughed.
When she cracked a slight smile at my comment, I added, “Well, maybe you deserve to get the shits.”
She smacked me lightly in the chest, and we both had a good laugh. The toast had burned. The eggs were cold. None of it mattered, because she was safe in my arms.
“I ruin everything,” she said. “I can’t even make you breakfast without ruining it.”
I held her closer. “I’m glad it burned.”
She pulled back. “Why?”
I grimaced. “Because now I get to take you out. In fact, I think we should stay out for the entire day.”
“What do you want to do?”
An idea suddenly came to me. “Stay here.”
I went to my room and returned with a piece of paper.
“That time in the barn shortly after I moved in…you listed your dreams to me. Do you remember that?”
“I came back here that night and wrote them down as best as I could remember them. At the time, I didn’t really understand why remembering them was so important to me. I later realized it was because I wanted to help you make them come true and because many of them were my own dreams.” I showed her my handwritten list.
To be independent
To experience love without settling
To be loved back
To make a difference in the world
To be comfortable in her own skin
To make love in the rain
To have no regrets
To be true to herself
“If my calculations are correct, you’ve achieved most of these except for the last three.”
“Well, you’re independent from your family. At least, you work and make your own money. You’ve experienced love. You’ve definitely been loved back. You’ve made a difference in my life. You take off your clothes in public. If that’s not being comfortable in your own skin, I don’t know what is!”
We both chuckled. It felt so good to laugh with her.
My voice lowered. “You’ve made love in the rain. I was there.”
“Yes, you were.”
“But the last three: skydiving, living with no regrets and being true to yourself…those I still need to help you with. We can start with the easiest.”
Evangeline made it down before me. At least, I hoped to heaven she did.
There was a loud popping noise when the instructor pulled the handle to activate the parachute. Skydiving seemed like a piece of cake compared to the past year of my life. It was strange, but I wasn’t as scared as I thought I might be to jump out of that plane; my life experiences as of late had toughened me up that way.
The relief that came over me when the parachute opened was euphoric. Everything slowed down dramatically. Slowly descending and floating in the air, I let myself relax. The ground was rapidly approaching.
I ended up landing on my ass.
Evangeline was running toward me with a huge smile on her face. “That was freaking amazing! Oh my God!”
“Was it everything you hoped for?”
“The greatest adrenaline rush I've ever experienced. I can’t wait to do it again.”
I kissed her forehead. “We both needed this.”