They spent the following week unpacking. Shon was more than happy when the last of the furniture was unloaded and arranged where Evelyn wanted. Flopping on the couch with a sigh of relief he closed his eyes. Evelyn’s shocked gasp had him jumping up, finding her staring at multiple paintings.
Coming up behind her, Evelyn turned as he approached “where did you get these?” She held up a painting staring at him.
“My gramma bought them from your mother years ago,” Shon explained.
“These were Sydney’s paintings,” Evelyn said running her finger tips across them. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Shrugging Shon didn’t know what to say. How could he explain why he had his deceased girlfriends artwork?
Waiting for Shon’s response Evelyn pulled out more paintings from the box “I remember these. They were the paintings my dad would look at for hours after Sydney died. He was heart-broken when he came home to find them gone.” Taking out more paintings she sighed over the loss. Talking almost to herself “these belong on display not hidden away in a box.”
“You wouldn’t mind displaying them?” Shon asked surprised.
“No, why would I? Syndey may have been your girlfriend but she was my sister first.” Gazing at the picture in her hand “why wouldn’t I want her art in my house? It was a part of her, her passion.”
“You’re right. I just thought it might be to painful,” Shon said putting his arm around her.
“It’d be worse if these paintings stayed packed away.” Coming to a decision she nodded her head “come on help me figure out where to put these.” After several hours they had all the paintings on the wall except one.
Turning to Evelyn Shon asked “do you think we should send this one to your dad?” Looking at the painting he held, Evelyn recognized it as one of her dad’s favorites.
“Smiling she hugged him tight “that would be the best present we could send him.”
Time passed quickly as they adjusted to living in the city. Shon enjoyed working in the crime lab and Evelyn learned the ropes of her new job. Being Henry Van Winkle’s assistant proved to be both fascinating and challenging. Henry proved to be a cantankerous old man who enjoyed nothing more than a good argument. Evelyn proved to be a good fit for him as she didn’t take offense easily over his needling questions and doubts over her theories. It was his way of testing her intelligence.
One afternoon Shon was on his way back to the station from a routine follow-up call, when someone approached him on the sidewalk. “What are you doing back in Bridgeport?” an angry female voice asked him.
Turning Shon found himself looking into the hostile eyes of Windi. A past girlfriend who had dumped him for the star football player in high school. “Hello Windi,” he attempted to be civil “my wife and I just moved here a few months ago.”
Her eyes narrowed “who would marry you?” she asked her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Someone with even less standards than you,” she added with spite intending to wipe the smile from his face.
Flinching despite himself Shon shook his head, he’d never understand what he did to warrant her hatred. She was the one who had dumped him. Left him without a second glance or a reason why. He should be the one hating her. Shrugging he turned to walk away when she grabbed his arm “you shouldn’t have come back.”
“Don’t worry I’m not planning on starting up where we left off,” he said jerking his arm free from her grasp. “You made your feelings abundantly clear when you dumped me almost ten years ago. I’ve moved on. I have someone a hundred times better than you.”
“I won’t have you messing up my carefully laid out plans,” she snarled grabbing his arm again.
Shrugging her hand off, Shon backed away from her “I don’t care what your plans are. Just as long as they don’t involve me or my family.”
“Just see that you don’t,” she eyed him warily.
Shon considered questioning her but decided to leave that particular hornets nest alone. Her problems couldn’t possibly affect him he thought.
The confrontation between him and Windi bothered Shon for the rest of the day. What did she think he could do to ruin her life? Did she think that he could do something just by being here? Clearing his desk before going home Shon felt depression sliding over his shoulders like a well-worn coat. Windi was the last person he wanted to run into and see her with the football player she had dumped him for. Glumly he left work, arriving at home he attempted to wipe the day’s events from his mind.
Looking up as Shon walked into the room, Evelyn said “Suppers in the oven,” she told him from the kitchen. “Is everything alright?” she asked after giving him a welcome home kiss.
Sighing Shon debated telling her about Windi. Why bring her into this, when she’d probably never meet the woman? “Just a bad day at work. Sorry to be so moody,” he attempted a smile that he knew Evelyn would see right through.
“Ok ….” Evelyn eyed him in concern “I know something’s bothering you. When you’re ready to talk about it you know where to find me.” She smiled at him giving him a brief kiss on the cheek. “Remember I’m here when your ready to discuss what’s bothering you.”
He couldn’t help but smile in relief at her, none of the other women in his life had ever let him off the hook so easily. How did he get so lucky? He knew he should just tell her but at the moment he could barely wrap his mind around Windi’s behavior led alone try to explain it. He laid on the couch, closing his eyes, trying to rest.
Shon smiled as Evelyn’s excitement grew as Terrell’s first birthday approached. She wanted to make sure it was extra special, being the first one without family and close friends in attendance. Shon found it bittersweet, wishing his children had been able to live close to their cousins and growing up around close family. Shaking his head to clear the unsettling thoughts that maybe this move wasn’t the best idea.
Evelyn smiled encouragingly at him, doing her best to be cheerful. Shon knew this was difficult for her and she missed her family. Gathering around the cake, Evelyn went to light the single candle when a gust of wind from the open window blew the flame back at her. The material of her blouse burst into flames spreading rapidly.
Shon watched helpless as the flames engulfed her before his eyes. Despite his attempts, he couldn’t reach her, their guests panicked getting in the way and he was forced to watch as the flames took her life.
Crying out, Shon sat up frantic, eyes darting around the room, settling on Evelyn as she finished setting the table for supper. Wiping the sweat from his forehead Shon breathed heavily trying to steady his heartbeat. “Suppers ready,” Evelyn called from the kitchen.
Joining her Shon tried to wipe the nightmare from his mind “it smells good,” sniffing the meal laid before him.
She smiled “you can thank my dad for teaching me how to cook.”
“Oh I will,” he smiled back at her “if you keep feeding me like this I’ll be over three hundred pounds”
“Is that supposed to be a compliment?” she asked sticking her tongue out at him. “If it is, it’s not a very good one.” Looking closer at him she asked “Shon is something wrong?”
“No why?” he asked looking down at his plate.
Evelyn watched him, staring into his plate. She had heard him call out in his sleep, why wouldn’t he talk to her? Picking up her fork, she decided to give him some space “what do you think we should do for Terrell’s birthday?”
A pit opened up in the bottom of Shon’s stomach at the mention of Terrell’s birthday. Where was all this apprehension coming from? Why was he letting one bad dream affect him so much? Looking up he noticed the hurt confused look in Evelyn’s expressive eyes. Sighing he suggested “maybe we should just keep it small, just us this year.”
“Don’t you think we should invite a few of our co-workers over?” Evelyn asked thinking of Henry and how he would enjoy meeting her family.
“Not this time,” Shon almost entreated her.
Picking up on the distress in his voice she didn’t push it. “Ok just us. I’ll pick up a cake from the bakery ….”
“No candles,” Shon asserted.
“You can’t have a birthday cake without at least one candle,” Evelyn protested.
Reaching across the table, Shon took her hand “no candles, please promise me.”
Looking into his eyes seeing the fear in them, she squeezed his hand “I promise. I don’t understand but I promise.”
Lifting her hand to his lips he murmured “thank you.” Shon smiled at her relief clearly showing in his eyes.