4 Years Earlier
“Evelina, we’re going to be late.” Zach Molner yelled to Evelina Jones. He paced back and forth with his hands gripped behind himself. “Your parents are going to beat us to the restaurant. Our engagement is going to be old news if you don’t hurry up.”
“I’m coming!” Ev yelled down the stairs. “We’re not even ten minutes away from the restaurant. My parents are coming from my great aunt’s, they have a much farther drive. And besides, we haven’t told anyone yet. It’s not going to be old news by the time we get there, Zach!”
Zach shook his head and adjusted his tie in a mirror by the door. “That’s what you think.” He muttered.
“What was that?” Ev rushed down the staircase, shoes in one hand and a hand purse in the other. Her normally blonde hair had been dyed auburn red, making the silver earrings stand out. She blew her bangs out of her eyes when she stepped onto the main level of the house.
Zach ignored her question, giving her a kiss as soon as she reached him. “You look stunning, my fiancé.”
Ev returned the kiss. Her cheeks flushed. “It’s so surreal to hear you say that! I can’t believe you finally proposed to me.” She gently punched his shoulder.
“Hey! It’s only been three or four years! We haven’t even reached your parents’ seven-years of courtship yet.” He winked at her.
“Not everybody’s old school like they were!” She jumped up and down, pulling her heels onto her feet.
“No, but I think they knew what they were doing when they waited that long.” Zach commented, grinning at his woman struggling to slip on her shoes. “Need a shoulder?” He leaned his over to her.
“I don’t need assistance in getting on my own shoes, Zachary Molner.” She gave him a look of independence, reminding him of why he loved her so much.
“I can see that.” He smiled wider and reached for the door. “Quit jumping like a bunny then and get them on.”
“Ha ha ha.” Ev gave him a playful glare while pulling on the other shoe. She tromped past him. “Now who’s behind?”
Zach rolled his eyes and shut the door behind him. He jogged passed Evelina and got the door for her. “My lady.”
Ev smiled up at him. “My oh my, what a gentleman.”
“Mhmm, and you better not forget that.” He reminded her and shut the car door.
Evelina waited for him to get in the driver’s side. “Think my parents will be surprised that we’re engaged?”
“Maybe your mom.” He commented as a heavy rain began to drench their vehicle, attempting to flood the road as they drove. The windshield wipers were on full force and it was still difficult to see the shiny road in front of them.
“Not my dad?” She looked at him curiously.
“Eh, he probably would have been.” Zach tried to keep his face serious. He chanced a glance over at her, an eyebrow cocked up. “If I hadn’t asked him for your hand first.”
“You didn’t!” Her eyes were wide as she waited for him to answer her.
“Oh, but, darling, I did.” He smiled, but kept his eyes on the road. “Your parents aren’t the only old fashioned people around. I still have a little bit of that charm running through my veins.”
Ev laughed. “I’m glad you only have a little bit of that charm running through your veins, otherwise our engagement could be three or four more years just to get to my parents’ seven-year mark.”
“Who said it won’t be?” Zach kept his face serious. It was hard to tell whether or not he meant what he said.
“You wouldn’t dare!” Ev watched him carefully, her eyes wide in mock horror. She didn’t mind the thought of a little bit of a longer engagement, but several years more was much too long. She wanted a big wedding and she wanted a shorter engagement. It was just that simple.
“I guess you’ll just have to see.” He shrugged, chancing a glance at her surprised expression. He parked the car at a semi-formal restaurant, getting out first to get her door.
“Weird!” She said as she got out of their vehicle and noticed a different, familiar vehicle.
“What?” Zach followed her stare.
“That looks a lot like your parents’ car.” Her brows knit together.
“Who knows, there’s a lot of vehicles that look like theirs.” He kissed her forehead before gently taking her hand and leading her into the restaurant.
Evelina dismissed it as coincidental. She let Zach lead her to the front desk and looked around while he double-checked their reservations. The hostess began to lead them away from the usual dining area. “Funny, I don’t see my parents anywhere.”
“Maybe they’re just running late.” He suggested, pulling her toward a back dining area.
“Maybe.” Ev agreed. “I thought the back room was reserved for parties or something.”
Zach didn’t answer her. He held her hand tight to ensure she didn’t try to fall too far behind.
“Zach?” Ev questioned, wondering why they were heading to the back. She always knew when he was keeping secrets, being a couple for a few years had ensured that, but she had no idea what he was up to tonight. She looked down at her engagement ring as it caught a glimmer of light and sparkled. It was simple and gorgeous — a double-banded moonstone ring, that had been passed on down by his great grandma. She had been honored that he had given it to her to wear.
“Surprise!” He looked back at her with a wide grin as they entered the room filled with a bunch of family and friends. A wide banner hung up in the back of the room stating their engagement.
Ev looked around at all the people and back at Zach. “Wow!” Her mouth had to have been gaping open in surprise. Never in her wildest imagination would she have guessed that he could have thrown this all together so quickly. She looked over at him as her brows shot up. “What if I would have said no this morning when you asked me?”
“I had a good feeling that you wouldn’t have.” He smiled, leading her to their own table in the midst of about twenty or thirty people. Most of them were his friends and family. Not many of hers lived in the area and she really didn’t have many close friends.
Evelina laughed. She said hi to a few people before they got to their table.
“Besides, what’s an engagement without an engagement party?” He rubbed her hand.
“You have a point.” Her eyes sparkled. She could feel her little hand purse begin vibrating. “Must be my parents saying their running late.” She laughed and pulled the phone out.
“Must be.” He smiled at her and reached over for his glass of water.
“Hello?” Ev smiled at her fiancé. She pulled her hand over her other ear so she could hear who was on the phone. “Yes, this is Evelina Jones.”
Zach watched her expression change dramatically. She wasn’t smiling anymore, her brows were furrowed together. He set his glass down and honed in on her, listening to any piece of information that would tell him more of what was going on.
“What? No, that can’t be possible.” She said calmly, listening to the person on the phone carefully. She looked over at Zach before pushing herself away from the table. She hurried out of the room and out of the restaurant. “Are you sure? They were just on their way to meet me, I’m sure you have to be mistaken.”
“Ev?” Zach had followed her out of the building. He waited for her to tell him what was going on.
“That is their names.” Ev’s heart was racing. “Don’t say that!” She snapped at the phone.
“Ev, what’s going on?” Zach watched his fiancé pull away and put a few more inches of space between them.
Ev’s breathing became rushed and panicked. The world was blurring in front of her as her eyes filled with tears. She streaked a hand through her hair, messing with the perfectly done up-do. “No!” She screamed, the phone falling out of her hands. Her legs felt like jelly as she lost her footing.
Zach grabbed her and slowly lowered her to the ground before she had a chance to drop to her knees.
Ev had never had a panic attack before, but she was sure she was on the edge of it. She felt lightheaded. Catching her breath felt like an impossible task. Her world was crashing in around her. “This is all my fault! They were on their way to see us. They just wanted to be here.” The tears gushed down her cheeks. Her hand clutched Zach’s shirt tightly as if it was the only thing there to comfort her, to hold her steady.
“Ev, who? Talk to me, baby.” Zach pulled away just enough to be able to look her directly in the eyes.
“My parents.” She barely could say. “My parents are dead! They were in a car accident.”
Zach fell back on his haunches in shock. He stared at her dumbfounded.
“It’s my fault. They should be safe with my aunt, not here with us.” Her voice held a level of condemnation that Zach had never heard before.
Zach looked back and forth between her eyes. “What are you saying, Evelina? This was not your fault. It just happened.” Tears were streaming down his face as well. He kept his voice level, but the emotion was clearly still in it.
“My parents are dead, Zach!” She wasn’t sure how to process the information. She could see him talking to her, but her ears were buzzing, eliminating everything around her. She pushed herself up from the ground and backed away from him. “It’s all my fault.”
“Ev…” Zach barely could say her name before she turned and fled from him into the darkness. He got up to follow after her, but it was useless; she had disappeared into the rainy night, leaving behind only her phone next to him on the wet tar.