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The cool September breeze blew through quiet trees. Orange, yellow and scarlet leaves danced by; the butterflies of autumn. A small girl in a pale pink jumper, neat white socks and pink sneakers stood alone at the end of a winding, dirt road. Two dark braids hung down to her elbows. The girl clutched an old fashion tin lunchbox with wonder woman on it to her chest. After waiting for several minutes, a school bus pulled up and opened its doors with a slight hiss. Trembling, the girl struggled to clamber up the steps.
“Name?” asked the middle aged bus driver. She had gray hair and a slightly tired look about her, as though she was dreading the thought of another whole school year.
“My name is Evangeline May Brado. You can call me Eve.” Eve's voice was high and clear, with an undercurrent of confidence that took the old bus driver by surprise. She smiled toothily and waved Eve to take a seat. The little girl walked a few steps before realizing that every seat had at least one occupant. She stopped next to an older girl with curly read hair.
“Can I sit with you?”
“This seat's taken.” The girl replied snobbishly, as she rudely shoved her bag in the place where Eve had been about to sit. The bus had started moving now and Eve found herself pitched into a seat closer to the back than the rude girl, and sitting next to a boy who looked as surprised as she felt. Eve quickly adjusted herself and her lunch box before staring straight ahead and not speaking for the rest of the ride.
When the bus pulled into a large parking lot in front of an even larger school, most of the students began to talk excitedly. As they flowed out onto the pavement, the boy Eve had sat next to caught up with her.
“Hey! Wait! I'm Charlie Sawyer. What's your name?” Charlie stuck out his thin hand for a hand shake. Evangeline was surprised. No one except an adult had ever shaken her hand before. She took his and shook, reveling in the mature feeling it gave her.
“I'm Eve. Are you in second grade too?”
“Yup! Are you new here?” Before Eve could answer, a bell rang somewhere in the school and all the kids began to push and shove by. When Eve looked around for Charlie, he had gone.
When the students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, had all filed inside the enormous brick building and settled excitedly in the cafeteria, a stern looking woman stood up and began to speak. She spoke for a long time, telling the children rules of the school and welcoming them to a new year. Then with a few final words, she made a gesture to a group of teachers on the side of the room. They swept forward and began at once to call out students names. Eve's name was called by a tall man with brown skin and black eyes. His expression was blank but something about him made Eve like her teacher instantly. After the students had all been assigned to their teachers, they were all lead in different directions throughout the school to their classrooms. Eve's classroom was spacious and very clean. The floor was covered in a thin carpet that still had vacuum lines. There were windows all along the side of the room, looking out on a playground and in the front of the room there was an enormous white board covering the entire wall. Desks sat in neat rows all facing the front. The entire effect looked friendly.
“I am Mr. Reed. I will be your teacher for this year. I hope we have a lot of fun, and if you follow my three rules- yes I only have three rules in my classroom- I believe we will! First of all, please go find your seats.” On each desk there was a square card with a name on it. They didn't seem to be in any particular order so Eve had some trouble finding her own. When all the students had sat down and looked around to see who they were sitting next to, Mr. Reed walked to his own desk at the front of the class and sat down.
“Now, my three rules for the class are: Listen quietly when I am speaking. Always respect the people around you. And never, ever be afraid to tell the truth. We are going to begin immediately. I am going to hand around a box of crayons for each person and I want you to color your name tags however you want. Please make sure we can still read the name though!” After Eve had gotten her crayons she stared blankly at her name tag. She was never very good at drawing so she didn't like it. Instead, she decided to color her whole name tag one color and leave it that way. After discovering that both the red and purple crayons were broken into little pieces, Eve settled on blue. She carefully colored around the thick black letters that spelled “Evangeline Brado”. After she was done, she looked around to see what other people were drawing. To her left, a tiny girl with very short blond hair was drawing a castle with a princess in it and flying horses all around. To her right there sat- Charlie. He grinned at her and held up his name tag. It was colored solid blue with little waves and swirling tides and at the bottom, there was seaweed and coral and little fishes. Eve looked back at her own blue name tag. Now it seemed boring. She drew a few birds and the sun and made it look like a decent sky. She turned to show it to Charlie, but found herself looking at Mr. Reed's legs. She looked up into his face. He wore a kind expression now, much better than the silent stoniness he had worn before.
“That's very nice Evangeline. You are good at coloring neatly.”
He turned to walk away but Eve spoke up, “Mr. Reed? You can call me Eve.” Mr. Reed smiled, said he would and walked over to the other side of the classroom, praising other kids name tags as he went.
“Hey Eve?” Charlie's wide brown eyes were staring at her. “You're new aren't you?” Eve nodded, wondering if this boy was going to tease her. She had never really spoken to a boy before. In her old school she had two best friends, Emily and Lila, and they had stayed away from everyone else.
“I was new last year. Want to be friends?” Charlie smiled, and it was such a friendly smile, so full of welcome and cheerfulness, that Eve found herself smiling back, and sticking out her hand to shake on it.
Rain poured from the roof making the view from the window look as though someone were pouring buckets of water from the sky. Evangeline was curled up like a cat under a thick blanket on the couch. A fire crackled in the hearth and the house was warm and snug. A man with wavy brown hair and sparkling eyes came into the living room carrying a tray with two bowls of strawberries and ice cream. He sat down and gently shook Evangeline's shoulder.
“Sweetheart. Sweetheart. Evangeline, Hon, wake up.”
Evangeline sat up, bleary eyed pushing her hair back out of her face.
“Oh, I'm sorry! I must have been more tired than I thought; I haven't been sleeping well lately.” She accepted her bowl of ice cream and ate mechanically.
“Evangeline, what's wrong? You haven't looked well for days, you barely eat anything except ice cream and apples, and you fall asleep every time you are left alone. Are you sick?” The man looked at her worriedly, trying to peer into her face. Evangeline kept her face turned towards the fire. It was beginning to turn pink from the heat, or so the man thought.
“I have something to tell you.” Evangeline couldn't look at him. “I know you're not going to like it very much, that's why I didn't tell you sooner. I'm pregnant.” The silence thickened, even the fire seemed to be keeping quiet.
“You... you're pregnant? But... how? I thought you took the pill? We've been careful... What are we going to do?” He looked helplessly at Evangeline. She finally looked at him.
“What are we going to do? We're going to have it, that's what we're going to do. I won't kill an innocent little baby, no matter how much it looks like an alien.”
“What? You have pictures?” He was starting to look angry now. “How far along are you? Why didn't you tell me before??”
Evangeline crumpled. Her face seemed to melt, her eyes welled up and her nose crinkled. Instantly the man was picking her up and holding her on his lap. He rocked her back and forward for a long time, until her tears slowed. “I...I just got an ultrasound t...today. I knew...knew you w...w...wouldn't like the thought of a b...ba..baby.” She wailed the last word and began to cry with a new intensity. The man just held her and muttered softly in her ear that everything would be alright, everything would be okay. Finally, he pulled away and made her look at him, cupping her chin in his hand gently. “I didn't want a baby. You know that. But I certainly don't want to kill one either. What about adoption? Have you considered that?” Evangeline nodded. She took a deep breath before saying, “I think that's what we are going to have to do. We're not ready to be parents, I'm only twenty-four and not married! What are my parents going to think?” Her face sagged again, threatening more tears. Quickly, the man changed the subject, “Have you been going to regular checkups? Are you healthy? If you're pregnant, you can't just eat ice cream all day! You need vitamins and stuff, don't you?” Evangeline seemed to pull herself together. “Yes, I have been going for regular checkups. I have another one week after next. I know I need to eat better...You know what Simon? I think we can do this.”
Charlie slipped quietly out from between the sheets. He pulled on his pants and t-shirt and left a note of apology on the dresser. He didn't leave his last name or number. Katherine never stirred.
Once outside, Charlie began to walk hurriedly towards the park. That was always where he went after a one night stand. He liked to sit in the solitude of the trees and maybe feed the ducks in the pond. They didn't care what he had done. They didn't know him. They were just grateful for the bread he threw. Today Charlie didn't have any bread, so he chose a bench pushed back among some bushes and shrubs. He needed time to think and clear his head. He always did this after he left a girl. It seemed to him that the few trees and rocks sucked all of the regret and frustration out of him. When Charlie left the park a few hours later, he felt much better.
Charlie worked at a zoo. He was the assistant manager of the aquarium section. Even as a child, Charlie had been interested in fish. He loved the ocean and the thought that it was a whole new world to explore. Today, when Charlie went to work, he had a surprise waiting for him. One of the sea otters had given birth to her baby. The tiny, slightly fluffy baby floated around the surface of the water while its mother threw fish for it to catch. Seeing this tiny creature playing so sweetly in the water made Charlie think of Lucy. Lucy had been his longest girlfriend ever. They met during their freshman year of college, and had dated until they graduated. She had wanted to marry him, and he had wanted to marry her. They had their lives all planned out, had even started house hunting. Charlie and Lucy were looking for a house on a quiet suburban street. They wanted to raise a family, have three kids and a dog. They were engaged for six months before Lucy died.
Charlie had been working when he got the call. Car crash. Brain dead. Nothing they could do. Now, almost two years later, Charlie couldn't remember very much about the month or so after Lucy had died. He knew he had been depressed, had gone to talk to someone, but he didn't even remember who. He had just turned off. The thing that made him live again, was Evangeline. She had flown all the way from England, where she was a journalist, when one of Charlie's friends had called her and told her what happened. Charlie had been sitting on his bed, staring at the wall, when Evangeline had just walked into his room, taken a look around and said with her usual confidence, “Why Charlie, your room is actually tidy! How long have I been gone?” Charlie had thought he was dreaming at first. He had certainly dreamed of Evangeline before, but never this vividly. He had stood up slowly, had reached out, and touched her cheek. Suddenly, they had embraced and everything began to heal. The day Evangeline had flown back to England, Charlie had gone back to work. His co-workers welcomed him with wide smiles and warm hugs. Charlie eventually began to have instants, even whole moments, when he felt happy again.
When Charlie got home, he had another surprise waiting for him. On his porch, there was a letter. That in itself was odd because the mailman usually put the letters in the mailbox. Charlie sat down on the steps and opened it. Inside there was a sheet of paper, neatly folded. Charlie carefully extracted it and began to read. A cool breeze blew his damp, brown hair. As he finished the letter, Charlie's eyes began to well up.
I need to come visit you for a while. My life is very complicated right now and I need my best friend to help me sort it out. About a month ago, I found out I was pregnant. My boyfriend Simon's child. Remember when I said I would never have sex until marriage? Yeah, about that... Anyway, last week I had a miscarriage. I, for some reason beyond my knowledge, was devastated. I didn't even want the child in the first place! We -Simon and I- had been planning to give her up for adoption. It was a girl by the way. But when the doctor told me I had had a miscarriage, I felt, for some reason that I had waited my whole life for this baby and now she was gone. I wanted her Charlie, I wanted her so much, but now it was too late. When I came home -I was in the hospital for a few days- Simon treated me like a piece of glass, fragile and ready to break. But then he said something three days ago. He said 'Well, it all works out, we didn't want it anyway.'
The fact that he had called her 'it' was what got me. I did break, in a way. I told him I was going to my friend Dianne's house for the night, and he should go somewhere too. He went to a bar I think, with his friends. Well, I came home and cried all night. When he came home the next morning, I had managed to clean myself up a little and pretend I had had a fine night.
This morning he proposed to me. I knew he would. He isn't a very surprising man. I told him no. I don't know why. Until three days ago, I wanted to marry him very much. He asked me my reason for saying no, and I told him it was because I was still shaken by the miscarriage and I needed a little space. Twenty minutes later, I had bought myself a plane ticket to come see you. I don't know how long I'm going to stay, I only bought a one-way ticket. I hope this isn't inconvenient, and if it is, well, I'm sorry. I will see you on the 6th
The 6th? That was tomorrow. Why had Evangeline waited until now to send him this letter? He had better clean the house.
Charlie walked into his house dreamily and began to clean everything in sight at a slow pace. As he took out the trash and did the dishes and made up the guest bed, he thought of only one thing. Evangeline was coming.
The minute she swept through the door in her soft gray pea coat, and black flats Charlie couldn't stop grinning. He helped her bring her bags in and set everything up in the guest room. Charlie helped her unpack and while she was resting from her flight, he cooked dinner for her. He wasn't a very good cook, he never had been, but he could make steak and potatoes and broccoli. The broccoli was still a little cold and the steak was a little well done, but Evangeline ate like she hadn't eaten in months. After the meal, Charlie washed the dishes while Evangeline dried. They chatted about what they had been up to recently and work and their friends. Charlie knew better than to bring up the contents of Evangeline's letter to her right now. After hot chocolate by the fire, they began chatting about older times.
Evangeline and Charlie were best friends from that first day of second grade. Evangeline was beautiful, pale skin, dark hair and large blue eyes. She usually wore her hair up in two braids- or when she got older, one long braid down her back- to keep it out of her eyes, but on rare, formal occasions, she would twist it up into an elegant bun.
Charlie had brown hair that usually fell into his wide, brown eyes. His smile was his best feature most people said, but Eve always said it was his personality. He was so friendly and sweet. He never teased girls unless it was in fun and they knew it. He was very smart, always getting good grades, and until high school, he seemed like a little angel. During junior year he went through a phase that even Eve almost couldn't cure. He had slept with nearly every girl in the entire school by his senior year, and his longest girlfriend was Kati Sorrel, a girl he had dated for three weeks. Kati was a bleached blond with blue eyes and a slutty complexion. Eve hated her.
Although Charlie slept around, Eve was only with one man before she met Simon. Charlie. Both of them were 16, and afterward, they agreed that it was only to get it over with, and they would go on being friends like normal. It was a little awkward at first, but soon they nearly forgot it. It was the first time for both of them. After that night, Charlie began his phase, and Eve became much more interested in school.
Eve's father worked at a paper shop. He pressed the paper himself, colored paper for holiday cards, paper with grasses and flowers in it for special occasions, plain paper, textured paper, large poster paper, tiny writing paper, journals, diaries, every type of paper product you could imagine. Her mother had died when she was three. Eve didn't like to talk about her.
Charlie's mother was a hippy. There was no other way to say it. She wore long flowing skirts and her hair was long and usually slightly unkempt. She grew her own vegetables and wouldn't eat anything else. She was also usually high. Charlie's dad had a desk job at some business, Eve never tried to find out which. Charlie's dad was never very caring. Not that he completely neglected Charlie, but he never seemed to be able to connect with his youngest son. Charlie had a brother who was five years older and had joined the army as soon as he was eighteen.
Right before graduation, Eve and Charlie had had their last sleepover. They had, as children, had many sleepovers and it never bothered them, or seemed awkward, until they lost their virginity to each other. After that, the sleepovers stopped. But the night before graduation was the last time they thought they would ever see each other, even though they promised to write and call. Charlie and Eve knew it would be hard to keep up their friendship with Eve going to England and Charlie going to Chicago. That last night together, Charlie and Eve stayed up most of the night drinking cheap beer and talking.
In the morning, Eve drove back to her house, and she didn't see Charlie again until after Lucy died.
Evangeline stayed in Chicago for five months after Charlie found the letter on his doorstep. During that time, they caught up on gossip, and fell back into their old friendship as easily as if they had been teens again. Their days began to have a pattern, in the morning Evangeline would cook breakfast, something simple like eggs and toast or oatmeal or French toast. Then if it was a weekday, Charlie would take Evangeline to the zoo. While he worked, she would wander around, looking at all the animals. By lunch time, she would be hot and tired, and would come into the cool aquarium room to find Charlie. They would either have packed sandwiches in the morning or else they would go out to eat somewhere close by. After lunch, Charlie would go back to work and Evangeline would relax in the cool shade of the huge tanks full of exotic sea creatures.
When they came home around 3, Evangeline would usually be exhausted. She would rest for an hour or so while Charlie read the news paper. He was the type of man who liked to sit quietly and read the paper cover to cover. Occasionally, if he found something good that he thought Evangeline would like, he would cut it out and wrap it around the stem of one of the wild flowers growing outside in his yard. He would then leave it on the dresser in the guest bedroom for Evangeline to find. When she did, she would always tack it to the wall and put the flower in a vase with the others.
They would cook dinner together, and wash up after together too. They had a lot of fun washing dishes together. Most of the time they both ended up soaked from head to foot, covered in suds, and laughing until tears rolled out of their eyes.
In the evenings, they would settle down to watch the news on TV or listen to each other read out loud. There usually was hot chocolate or tea or occasionally warm spiced cider. They would stay up and talk until around midnight or so, when Evangeline's head would droop onto her hand, or the arm of the couch, or Charlie’s shoulder. Then he would gently wake her up and insist she go to bed.
One night, almost four and a half months after Evangeline had come to stay with Charlie they had a particularly long talk about old teachers. Charlie went to get himself another cup of cider, and when he came back, he found Evangeline sprawled out on the couch fast asleep. He scooped her up easily, much to her surprise, and began to carry her to the guest bedroom.
“Put me down! Charlie, you're going to hurt your back or something, put me down!” Evangeline was laughing though and Charlie laughed with her.
“Put you down? Okay Eve, but you asked for it.” And he dropped her onto her bed. She squealed and flipped over so she was on her hands and knees and dove at Charlie’s legs. He tripped and fell onto the bed right next to her. By then, they were both laughing too hard to speak. Suddenly, Charlie looked over at his best friend in the entire world, and kissed her. It was a gentle kiss, more passionate than any kiss either of them had ever experienced, and yet it made neither of them have the desire for sex. Instead, it was a pure kiss, one that was filled with so much love and care, that neither wanted it to end. When they finally broke apart, Evangeline leaned back and smiled.
“Charlie, what was that?” Her voice was a little higher than usual and she spoke in a quiet voice, almost like a whisper.
“That, Eve, is called a kiss. People do it when they love each other.” Charlie hadn't meant to say this. He had meant to say 'When people care for each other' but 'love' had just slipped out.
“Do you love me then Charlie?” asked Evangeline.
“Of course I love you. I've always loved you. You know that.” Charlie’s brown eyes seemed to be brighter than usual. He was on his side propping up his head with his hand. Evangeline mirrored his stance.
“I love you too. But I didn't mean to ask what that was; I know what a kiss is silly. I mean, why did you do it?” Her eyes couldn't meet his.
“Evangeline May Brado. Not only do I love you, but I am in love with you. I have been for five months, and probably longer only I was too stupid to realize it. I love you, and I am in love with you and I want to wake up next to you every morning. I want to come home from work, hot and tired, and find the kitchen a mess and you sitting on the floor laughing hysterically because you completely ruined something new that you were trying to bake. I want you to be able to come talk to me about anything, just like we always could, but now, I want to be right here waiting to listen. I want to laugh with you while we do the dishes. I wash; you dry, for the rest of our lives.”
Evangeline sat silent for a few minutes and then said with that under current of confidence that Charlie knew her to usually have, “Almost every time I slept with Simon, I woke up in the middle of the night from a bad dream. It was always the same one. You and I were on the school bus, and all of a sudden, Simon came up and pushed you out of your seat. He told me I had to choose, him or you. Of course, in real life Simon never asked me that, and I don't think he would, but now I am going to choose. I choose you. I love you Charlie, and I have loved you for a while. I knew it though. I loved you from that day we had sex. I almost told you, but then you said it was just for the sake of doing it. It didn't mean anything. I thought that you were maybe right, and I tried to find someone else to love. Simon came close. I do love him, but not enough. Not enough to not want to run away when I think of spending the rest of my life with him. With you? I think of lying here on this bed, and talking to you for the rest of my life, and I laugh. I love you Charles James Sawyer.”
They kissed again, only this time, the kiss was more passionate with the knowledge that both loved each other more wholly that either had loved anyone before. When you love someone, when you are truly and completely in love with them, you give them your heart and you know that they will take care of it better than you would.
The next morning, sunshine woke Evangeline. She blinked her eyes open and saw cheerful light streaming through her window. She looked beside her and- there was Charlie. He was still sleeping, with one arm over his eyes and the other under the covers, holding Evangeline's hand. His breathing was soft and even, his hair very messy. Evangeline leaned down carefully, and kissed each of his eyelids. They twitched but he didn't wake. She slowly and carefully slid out from under the blankets and got to her feet. She stretched, reaching to the ceiling and arching her back. Then, she slipped her t-shirt and shorts back on and went into the kitchen to make breakfast.
When Charlie came into the kitchen, his hair still tousled, he stopped and looked at Evangeline for a moment before speaking.
“Eve? Guess what?” His eyes shone and his voice was full of excitement.
“What Charlie?” Evangeline smiled.
“Last night, I told the most beautiful woman in the world that I loved her and guess what?”
“She said it back! And then guess what happened?” Charlie was laughing now.
“You had sex with her passionately and woke up to find her making you breakfast?”
“Well it would appear so.” Charlie walked over to Evangeline and gave her a hug. His breath was cool and minty; he had obviously brushed his teeth. Evangeline leaned in and kissed him and then they were too busy to notice when the pancakes burned.
Two and a half weeks later, Evangeline returned to England. She went back to her apartment to find that Simon was gone. He left a note on the table saying that he was sorry but if she was going to do drastic things like run away and not tell him until the day before, then he wasn't so sure about their relationship. Evangeline smiled at this. She had imagined herself trying to explain her love for Charlie to Simon. He wouldn't understand. He was a methodical man, if you were going to do something with him, you planned for weeks.
Evangeline began to gather all of her belongings. Her clothes all fit neatly into three large suitcases, all of her toiletries and bathroom things fit into another, all her pots and pans and dishes would have to go into two boxes, and shipped to Charlie’s house. Evangeline packed until her stomach ached and growled with hunger. She wolfed down a quick sandwich and went back to packing. Around lunch time- Evangeline was still on Chicago time so really it felt like dinner- Evangeline ate a salad and some hard boiled eggs. Before she could start packing again though, she suddenly felt extremely nauseous. She ran to the bathroom in time to be sick. She brushed her teeth and blamed the eggs. Who knew when Simon had bought them? Or left them for that matter. From then on, she would be careful with food in the house. Between trips to the bathroom, Evangeline got quite a lot of packing done. She was actually almost finished when her doorbell rang. She answered it to find- “Dianne! Oh Dianne how are you? How have you been? Were you worried about me? Who's this?” Evangeline was staring at a little brown dog that was squirming from excitement at Dianne's feet. He seemed overcome with joy at being noticed, for he jumped up and began to lick Evangeline's knees, for that was as high as he could reach.
“This is Gretchen! She is my new dog; I would have told you if you had been here! How are you, oh you look so well, almost glowing! America seemed to have done you well, now sit down and tell me all about it-why what's all this?” The two women had moved into the open area of the apartment and Dianne was surveying the boxes and suitcases and newspaper. She turned her eyes to Evangeline in disbelief but before she could ask again, Evangeline had clapped a hand over her mouth and was bolting for the bathroom again. Dianne followed, but at a slower pace, so that she arrived in time to see Evangeline starting to brush her teeth.
“I'm leaving Dianne. I'm moving to back to America. I need to be with-” She stopped. She had said nothing at all about Charlie in her letters and phone calls to Dianne. She had wanted to explain the whole thing in person. Dianne of course knew about Charlie as an old friend, but she knew nothing about this new found love.
“It's a long story Dianne, please sit down. I'll make some tea.”
“Not in this condition you won't. You sit down, and I will make the tea.”
Dianne insisted. Evangeline sat on a bar stool and began to tell about everything that had happened to her in the past few months. By the time Evangeline had finished her story, Dianne was on her third cup of tea and Evangeline was in the bathroom for the second time. When she came out again, pale but determined to be cheerful for her guest, Dianne blew her tea thoughtfully and said “So when are you going to tell me you slept with him Evangeline?”
Evangeline froze. She hadn't mentioned sleeping with him yet, she had been getting there when she felt sick suddenly again.
“How on Earth can you tell?” Dianne gave her a look that plainly said Please, we have been friends for years. Don't even ask me that.
“How was he?” Dianne smiled girlishly.
“Ummm, fantastic, but that's all I'm going to tell you Miss Nosy! I want to ask you, when did Simon leave? Do you have any idea?” Dianne immediately stopped smiling. Her face seemed to shrink a little, and her eyes darted from side to side-as if by looking anywhere else but at Evangeline, she wouldn't have to answer her question.
“Simon...” Dianne finally said in a quiet voice, “left about a week after you did. He, um, he went to Marissa Hart's house. He only just came back here a few days ago to see if you had come back, and then he left again.”
Evangeline sat quietly, a mix of sadness and disgust on her face.
“Marissa? Are they together? That would be alright. I'm glad he found someone else at least. But... Are you sure it was just a week?”
Dianne nodded grimly. Evangeline straightened herself up. She drained the last of her tea and stood.
“Well alright, that's okay, by then I was beginning to fall for Charlie anyway. It's good that he found someone else.” She spoke as if trying to convince herself. Then Evangeline began bustling around trying to pack the last of her linens and bed sheets. By now, she felt much better, even a little hungry. Dianne suggested that they go out for dinner, seeing as they probably wouldn't see each other again for a very long time.
They ended up going to a very small cafe where they had spent many evenings before, laughing and talking. Halfway through eating pasta however, Evangeline ran outside and got sick again. Dianne drove her home and insisted on putting her to bed. Two days later, the two women had packed the last of Evangeline's belongings and put them through baggage. Dianne went with Evangeline to the terminal, hugging her so hard that both women nearly broke into tears when it was over. Evangeline boarded the plane, and sat back to nap. Dianne watched the plane out the window, but she didn't know which seat her friend was in.
Charlie was waiting at the airport when Evangeline got home. She had slept very little on the plane, and spent most of the flight being sick. When she finally stepped into Charlie's embrace, she began to cry.
“Eve, what's wrong? You're home now, you're safe! Don't cry dear, it will be okay. What's the matter? Please tell me.” Charlie looked bewildered as Evangeline kept crying at a steady pace.
“Please, just take me home Charlie. I'm so tired, and I'm sick with food poisoning and I just want to go home.” Evangeline was so pathetic looking, fragile and pale, that Charlie didn't ask anything more. The trip home was a long one, three hours. Evangeline actually slept most of it; she seemed to feel much better. She had stopped throwing up at least. When they got to the house, Charlie did as Dianne had, and tucked Evangeline into bed. He cooked a big bowl of soup for her and she kept it down. Charlie actually had fun taking care of Evangeline. He would wake her up in the mornings by opening the curtains and letting the sun flow through. She always loved that. Then he would head off to work, leaving something for her to eat at lunch time in the refrigerator and a love note on the table.
Two weeks went by of this routine before Charlie insisted that food poisoning did not last this long, and Evangeline had a doctor’s appointment at 2:30 the next day. At 3:27 the next day, Charlie was found sitting on the hard plastic chair of the waiting room. Evangeline has been in there for a while. He thought to himself. Maybe I should ask someone... But just then, the door to the examining rooms opened and a short, blond doctor stepped out. “Charlie?” She called, looking expectantly around the room. Charlie got up and walked toward her.
“What happened? Is everything alright?” The doctor just smiled and led him back through several hallways that all looked the same until they came to a door that was identical to the ones alongside it. Charlie pushed open the door, a little wary of what he might find.
Evangeline was sitting on the examining table, looking straight at him, a small smile on her beautiful face. Tear tracks etched themselves on her smooth skin but none flowed out of her eyes now. Seeing Evangeline's expression was like a slap in the face for Charlie. He suddenly understood. It was so obvious, how could he have missed it?
The doctor was saying something in her much-too-chipper voice, but Charlie wasn't paying her the slightest bit of attention. He slowly walked over to Evangeline and stood directly in front of her. Very, very slowly and deliberately, Charlie reached down a hand and touched Evangeline's face.
“Eve? Are we going to have a baby?” His voice was so quiet the doctor seemed not to hear. Evangeline looked up into his eyes and nodded. Suddenly, both of then began to laugh, that hysteric kind of laugh that once started, is very hard to stop. While they two tried to catch their breaths, the doctor smiled and said “I'll leave you two alone for a while.” and bustled out of the room. Evangeline looked up at Charlie with a suddenly somber expression.
“Charlie, this is... new. Our whole relationship is new. I hadn't even thought about anything but living with you and getting to know you again. Having a baby will... change things. Everyone says so. Most people who get divorced get divorce over money or children!” Her voice was starting to lose that note of confidence now.
“What if we can't handle having a child? What if we break up, what if we stop loving each other, what if...what if something happens? Anything?” New, fresh tears were threatening the corners of her sparkling, blue eyes now. Her wavy black hair was hanging loosely around her elbows and it framed her face elegantly. Charlie took her face in his hands and kissed her. In the last three and a half weeks that Evangeline had stayed with Charlie before returning to England, they had kissed more times than many couples ever kissed in their whole relationships. Every night they had slept in each others arms, not always having sex, sometimes just sleeping.
“We will be okay Eve. We're best friends remember? We can do anything. And by the way? I will always love you.”
Evangeline sat with her back to the window. The icy frost that had covered the grass the night before was beginning to melt. The trees dripped and two or three birds sang uncertainly in the blue-gray sky. A cool mist stretched over a field to the left. Evangeline wasn't watching any of this. She was staring at a white door on the other side of the room. Soon, she knew, it would open and they would come in. First would be Oliver. He would probably be holding Haley's hand. Haley would be holding the hand of a small three year old girl, Joanne. They would come in together, looking a little nervous, and a little excited, and a little like they were dreading what they would find. Natalie would come in next. She would be holding Max on one arm and Alice on the other. Next, Natalie's husband, Andrew, would come in, carrying tiny Emma. They would all gather- the two couples and their children.
Natalie would speak first. “Hello Mother! How are you today?” Her words would be slow and clear, as if Evangeline was hard of hearing. Evangeline wouldn't answer of course. Oliver would probably make some stupid comment about a lovely view from the window, like he always did. Then they would lapse into silence for a while. Eventually, the children would be told to go out and play on the lawn with either Haley or Andrew in tow, yelling at them to keep out of the stream, or to be gentle with Joanne. Emma would stay in the room, she was too little go walk or talk. Evangeline thought this was very ironic, seeing as she -at age 87- could neither walk nor talk anymore either. She and Emma shared that connection, though Emma was too young to do much but drool. Charlie would have loved to meet her. He loved Max and Alice so much, Evangeline thought. Her thoughts were funny. As she had gotten older, Evangeline's voice had gotten raspy and hoarse. But in her head, her voice was clear and confident, as it had been in her youth.
Evangeline had gotten cancer of the larynx when she was 80 years old. The surgery had been successful, according to the doctors. She had lived, but the cost was higher than Evangeline wanted to pay. She could no longer speak, not even grunting or muttering. Charlie had been very good at correctly interpreting what she was trying to say, but he had died four years ago, and with her arthritis, Evangeline had stopped writing things down. Evangeline thought for a minute, and then she waved weakly at Natalie. Her daughter looked up at her and smiled. “Hello Mother! How are you?” Evangeline didn't say anything but she pointed out the window and smiled widely.
“Yes, the children love playing on the lawn. They think it's like a playground. For the twins eleventh birthday, they want to go to this new fun park, that has a giant playground, five stories high! Can you imagine?” Natalie was talking loudly still. She had ever since Evangeline had had surgery. As if not being able to speak had made her hearing bad.
Evangeline just smiled and shook her head. Her snow white braid bounced feebly against her neck. Oliver was looking out the window.
“Okay, Max? Alice? You two go out and play and bring Joanne with you! Don't leave her behind. Make sure you stay together alright? Haley, dear? Will you go?” Oliver turned to his wife who was now placing a bright-eyed Joanne in the care of ten year old Alice. Max was already tugging at the door handle, eager to get outside.
Evangeline smiled. She loved watching her grandchildren play outside as she had loved watching her two children so many years ago.
Evangeline May Sawyer died on September 1st, at Bright Future nursing home. Her gravestone was made of a smooth, gray marble. Engraved in neat font was the following inscription:
Here lies Evangeline May Brado
Who lived four years before finally
returning to her Charlie