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“Winter,” I hear him call, above the distant roar of the train, and suddenly, that hope I had built breaks around me. I stare at the floor, at the little broken pieces of it, refusing to look up. But I know he’s staring at me.
Finally, the silence is too much for him, apparently. Cautious, timid, his feet come into sight on the floor directly in front of me. His hand, shaking slightly, comes up to rest on the ribbon that loops around my waist, holding the blue dress together.
“Winter,” he says again, and I try to stay strong.
I pray as hard as I can. We had been over this many times, God and I, and always the answer was the same. But sometimes the answer just feels wrong. There must be some mistake, I tell God. Surely, all this oncoming pain is not what You want for me. For him. For all of us.
Ev sighs, and pulls me closer until he’s holding me. We stand there, while he strokes me, saying nothing. I close my eyes.
I know the answer. My parents are dead. My siblings are dead. My sweet, sweet Xavia…I can’t even think of her. She had turned her life around, God! How could you have let her be killed right before she was going to be released? In the midst of doing Your work, God? How could You?
And now, Salem, the brother I never knew I had. The only family I have left.
Unless you count Evanston.
We can both feel it, I think. The time ticking away to goodbye. The fear squeezes us, and we grip each other. The sorrow thundering down the tracks makes them shudder and shake. But no. That’s Ev. Crying.
If I’m being honest, my final decision didn’t even come from learning about Ev’s betrayal. It didn’t come out of wanting to escape the drugs, the murder, this crazy, incestuous murk. It wasn’t about him, or my fear.
I just need to start over. Now that I know where I came from, I have to know more. I have to see what God has in store for me, and He’s made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t involve Ev right now. And I want to be with Lemmie. Not to replace Nel, but because I can’t let this unexpected brother go. And yes, maybe I have it wrong, and God does want me to stay with Ev. But I really don’t think so.
Anyway, it’s a risk. A risk I have to take.
“Good by, Evanston Quade,” I whisper, stepping away as the train finally pulls up. I take my bag, get on board, and never take my eyes from him as he recedes out of sight.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13