Evelyn knew there was going to be trouble the moment she walked into the house. She had gone home to collect a few books she needed before heading off to meet Alice King only to find her father sitting in his chair with his chin resting on his laced fingers. This was Paul Stone’s introspective pose and it always meant it was time for a talk.
The last thing Evelyn wanted to do right then was fight with her father. She loved her father. She loved him so much that it hurt. It hurt her to think that the strongest, smartest man she had ever known was denying that his own son had ever existed. It hurt even more that he was treating Evelyn as if she were abnormal for not doing the same. The thing that hurt the most though was knowing that he knew the truth and seeing how straight faced he could lie to her. Evelyn knew in the depth of her heart that the lying was tearing him apart and could never understand why he refused to relent. Her father was stubborn, just like her, and their prides were about to force them to say more things they would regret.
“Evelyn,” he began and she could hear the heavy weight he was carrying in his voice. He was tired. Fighting with the only person next to his wife who he treasured most in life was taking the fire out of him. “I need to speak with you for a moment.”
Evelyn stood in the entryway, torn. She could engage him here and get it over with or try to ignore the seriousness of his face and proceed upstairs. He would follow her and still say whatever he was going to say, making the attempt to avoid the fight futile, but at least she could change the venue and possibly tip the balance of power. These little tactics were below her though. She was not a coward. Evelyn stepped into the living room and crossed her arms under her breasts.
“Okay, what’s up?”
“I got a call from your school today. Your class counsellor is a bit worried about you.”
“Why? I haven’t gotten in trouble for anything and I am a straight A student. I am actively involved in social clubs and I have more extra curricular actives than most of the other students. I also have a lot of friends. What could she possibly have to be worried about?”
Paul unlaced his hands and began rubbing his fingertips together.
“It’s the issue of which friends you are hanging out with, Evelyn, that has us all a little worried.”
“This is where he is going to bring up Finian,” flashed through her mind.
Evelyn had been careful never to bring Finian around the house because she knew how her parents would react. They would look at him and see a crazy kid come to support her in her wild ideas, making her so-called, ‘problem’, worse. She would not allow her parents to belittle Finian’s pain. They did that enough to her.
“What is wrong with my friends, dad?” Evelyn said in a tone that was meant to sound innocent but came off entirely too sarcastic. She had been spending way too much time with Finian.
“I think you know what the problem is, Evelyn.”
“No, I don’t, dad. You were the one that wanted to have a talk, so why don’t you stop beating around the bush and talk.”
Paul sighed. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Who is Finian Kelley?”
Evelyn flexed the muscles in her jaw. She knew this was coming but it still made her so angry. Angry at her counsellor for butting into something that was none of her business, angry at her father for what she knew he was about to tell her, and mostly angry at herself for not being more careful about how and when she met up with Finian. She was sure that Finian would be getting a call to his counsellor as well and Evelyn hated thinking that she put that burden on him.
“He is a new boy at school.” Evelyn knew what answer her father wanted and had purposefully avoided giving it to him. She immediately hated herself being such a coward. it made her feel like she was playing the same game as her father so she quickly added, “he’s my friend.”
“I see,” her father replied. His voice sounded completely defeated. “When did you become friends with this Finian? Before or after you learned that he has a wild fantasy about a family that never existed?”
Evelyn herself could not have predicted how furious what her father had just said would make her. She had been preparing herself for the worst but it was not enough. Finian was not there to defend himself and she would not let anyone speak that way about her friend.
“How dare you! You don’t even know him and you have the audacity to say something like that? How could you possibly know what he’s been through? What evidence do you have that he’s not telling the truth. What the hell do you know!” Evelyn shouted the last sentence so loudly that it brought her mother into the room.
“Is everything okay in here?” she asked. Airi, Evelyn’s mother, had a slow, calm way of speaking that always brought tempers down from a flare.
Evelyn had not realised in her passion that she had moved closer to her father. She was pointing at him, her finger shaking with rage, and she stepped back quickly when her mother entered the room.
“Yes, everything is fine.”
“It’s not fine, Evelyn. I don’t want you hanging around that boy.” Paul said in a flat tone as he rose from the chair. “You are not to see Finian Kelley again. I will say this only once.”
Evelyn laughed. That is what she usually did when someone threatened her. Her father never could get it through his head that she was his daughter. She was just like him – strong, stubborn and spirited. They were both mustangs. The more you tried to control them the more they kicked. Telling her never to see Finian again was only going to assure she never missed an opportunity to be around him.
“And I will say this only once, Paul.” Evelyn put all the emphasis she could on his name. She wanted him to know that he was not being her father just then. She wanted to make him finally see what he was becoming. “You are never going to tell me who I can and cannot spend my time with. What are you going to do? Pull me out of that school? Move us to another state? Another country? I will find a way back. I will ride a bike, row a boat, walk if I have to. Whatever it takes. I will always find a way back here until I find Akira.” Evelyn did not remember when she started crying but the tears were racing down her cheeks now. “I don’t care if you’ve given up. I won’t!” She turned to face her mother as well, “Do you hear me! I won’t!”
Evelyn turned to leave the house in a rush, all the books she had wanted to collect completely forgotten when her father grabbed her by the arm. His hands were so strong. She had almost forgotten.
“When did we become enemies, Evelyn?”
She could not bear to turn and face him. She knew he was crying too.
“Do you really need to ask that question?”
“I am trying to understand, Evie. I want to know what is going on with you. I want to understand why you won’t let this strange fantasy of yours go, but I can’t do this anymore. Why can’t you see that I am not trying to hurt you, Evelyn. I am trying to help you.”
Evelyn was so filled with hurt and fear and anger that she could not find words at first. He had called it a fantasy again. He had called it a fantasy so many times that she could feel herself almost starting to question if it just might be. He was wearing her down. She had to fight it. For Akira’s sake, she had to fight it.
Evelyn spun and faced her father, ripping her arm from his grasp.
“Let me ask you a question then, dad.”
“Do you love me?”
It was a simple question but the implication of it made Paul start.
“Of course I love you, Evelyn. I love you more than anything in this world.”
“For how long?”
Paul drew his eyebrows together and shook his head.
“I don’t understand what you mean. How long have I loved you? Since the moment you were born.”
“No. I want to know for how long you would have kept on loving me if it had been me they took instead of Akira. How long would it take for me to be a stupid fantasy. How long would you care?”
The shock in Paul’s face was indescribable. His mouth hung open and his lip began to quiver.
“These are the thoughts that I have to live with. Looking in your eyes and knowing you have given up on him.” Evelyn’s voice caught and she had to swallow before she could finish. “Knowing that you would give up on me. Knowing that you wouldn’t fight.”
“I would tear the world apart to find you, Evie, you have to believe that,” Paul said, grabbing her by both arms and pulling her to his chest.
She let him hug her for a moment but she felt nothing but sorrow. Every fight they had brought them one step closer to a completely broken relationship. Evelyn feared that even if she was able to bring Akira back and put her family right, she and her father would never be the same.
“I wish I could believe that,” she said, pushing away. “But I don’t trust you anymore.”
Evelyn turned away again slowly and walked out the door. She left Paul standing in the entryway with a look of numb shock on his face. The silence she left in the house was oppressive enough to be considered painful and Paul was rooted to the spot where Evelyn had cut him down.
Airi approached him and folded herself into his chest. She wrapped her arms around him and tried to be what comfort she could.
“How long must it go on like this? Will this ever end?”
Paul said nothing. He had not words left. Evelyn had taken more from him with her words than she could ever have imagined.