37. Gifts

I folowed their rules for the next two weeks. Not because I wanted to,
because it’s just how it ended up. Evan and I didn’t go to his house the
folowing Sunday, we went to the sports complex where he talked me
into the driving range instead of the batting cages. I concluded in frustration
never to do it again. I spent time in Art and part of study period
preparing his birthday gift. Ms. Mier didn’t know exactly what it
was for but was encouraging as I completed each page. I had a feeling
she knew more than she admitted, but then again, she always did.
When it was finaly finished, I let Sara look it over to make sure I
hadn’t stepped over any lines that would make it too… much. She

understood its entire content since I told her everything, so it was unnerving
to watch her reaction as she scanned each page. She smiled at
the end and shocked me by giving me a hug.
“Em, it’s perfect.”
“Definitely - he’s going to love it.”
“Then why do I feel like I’m going to throw up at the thought of giving
it to him?”
“Because it’s so personal and thoughtful. He has to love it.”
I hoped she was right.
My stomach was in my throat the entire ride to school on Friday. I
nervously wrung my hands in my lap. Evan finaly said something
when we arrived at school.
“What’s going on?” He turned to face me after shutting the car off.
I took a quick breath. “I didn’t know when was the best time to do this,
so I’m just going to do it now.” I reached into my backpack and puled
out the flat, wrapped square. “Happy birthday.”
Evan produced an uncomfortable grin. “Thank you.”
“You don’t have to open it now,” I blurted when he started to unwrap
the gift. “You can look at it later, when you’re by yourself.”
He eyed me suspiciously and opened it anyway.

“Evan, realy, you don’t have to look at it now.” Maybe I was going to
throw up.
“Did you make this?”
I bit my lip and nodded.
To my horror, Evan started turning the pages of the ribbon bound
colection of art. A smile crept onto his face. I held my breath, watching
his bright eyes take in each moment captured by the stroke of my
He turned to the page with the image of Sara’s scarf and remarked, “I
stil have this, don’t I?” He hesitated at the page with the blue hand
print, smiling wider, which sent a warm chil through me. I took in his
soft expression while he scanned the lyrics I transcribed from one of
the songs he downloaded on my iPod, and he shook his head with a
smile at the Jacobs’ exquisite chandelier. Evan ran his fingers along
the brook in the meadow, and he let out a light laugh remembering the
cityscape from atop the apartment building in New York. His cheeks
flushed at the sight of the pink roses on the last page, and he slowly
closed the book with a deep breath.
“This is everything, huh?” he questioned, taking a hold of my hand.
“Only the good stuff,” I corrected, my fiery cheeks now crimson.
“This is amazing. Thank you.” He leaned over and found me waiting
for him. My head was swirling already from not being able to breathe,
but with the touch of his lips, the sensation escalated, a rush of flitters
in my chest. He left me needing a minute to float back down before
stepping out of the car.

Evan met me on the other side of the car and wrapped me tightly in
his arms. My heart stil hadn’t recovered from the kiss and continued
to falter when I looked up into his steel blue eyes.
“That is the best gift I’ve ever received,” he grinned. He kissed me
again, but with a little more restraint.
“Oh,” I sighed when he finaly released me. “I’m glad you like it.”
“That was hard for you, wasn’t it?” Evan noted, holding my hand as we
walked into school. I hesitated, unsure of what he meant. “Having me
look at it with you right there.”
“You have no idea,” I confessed. He smiled at my honesty.
“So tomorrow night’s my turn,” he declared with a slight squeeze of
my hand, leaving me perplexed as he disappeared down the hal.
Evan wouldn’t explain what he meant when I asked later that day. But,
he did want me to wear his favorite pink sweater, which I agreed to do
with a shrug – it was his birthday. He continued to avoid teling me
what he meant by his statement, making me nervous. It made Sara
giddy. She came up with a thousand reasons he was being so mysterious,
but none of them were even close to what he actualy planned.
“We’re having dinner at your house?” I questioned in confusion when
we puled in his driveway. Evan grinned.
“Close your eyes,” he requested.
“What?! Why?” I demanded in a rush. “Evan, what did you do? This is
supposed to be your birthday, right?”

“Yes,” he replied with a quick smile, “and this is what I wanted to do
for my birthday. Close your eyes.”
I swalowed the anxiousness and obeyed. Evan helped me out of the car
and wrapped a silky fabric around my eyes.
“Are you serious?”
“I know you’l peek before you’re supposed to.”
“Evan, I have heels on; I’m going to kil myself.”
“No you won’t.” He swept his arm under my knees, and I fel back,
cradled in his arms. I yeled out in surprise and wrapped my arms
firmly around his neck.
“That was not necessary,” I scolded.
“Don’t want you to kil yourself,” he remarked, a smile in his voice.
I heard his feet crunching along the gravel that led to the barn and
then the squeak of a door. I recognized the scents of the garage as he
continued up the stairs. He pushed the door open and effortlessly
lowered me onto my feet. I was afraid to open my eyes after he untied
the fabric.
When I did, my mouth dropped open. The entire room was shimmering
in a soft glow, with lines of candles on every surface. The couch
was pushed toward the wal to alow room for a smal table in the center
of the floor, adorned with candlesticks and set for two. I recognized
the soft whispery female voice floating through the speakers.
“Is this from my playlist?” I questioned.

“I told you it set a mood,” Evan smirked, then examined me intently
and asked, “So, how’d I do?”
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed. He stood behind me with his arms around
my waist, bending to kiss the top of my shoulder. Evan escorted me to
the table and puled out a chair for me. Even though I knew it was part
of who he was, the chivalry stil felt awkward. I smiled nervously as he
sat across from me, a colorful salad in front of us.
“Is this weird for you?” he asked, observing my fidgeting.
“No,” I answered reluctantly. “I’m trying to get over that you thought
to do this.”
“Thanks,” he replied sarcasticaly. “You didn’t think I had this in me?”
“It’s not that,” I corrected. “It’s your birthday, so it doesn’t feel quite
“This is exactly what I wanted to do for my birthday. So, relax, okay?”
“Okay,” I breathed, searching for the appetite to eat the berries and
greens before me.
“We are going to the prom together, right?” he confirmed. “I know I
didn’t officialy ask you. Actualy, I think my mother did.”
I laughed. “Yes, Evan, I wil go to the prom with you.”
“Please don’t tel me that you’re going to go shopping with her,” he
“I could never afford any place she’d take me.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure she wants to buy the dress.” My eyes widened in
surprise. He added, “It would just be too strange having you and my
mother alone together. I know she’d tel you things that would freak me
“Realy?” I teased. “Maybe we should go shopping together.”
Evan shook his head as I laughed at the idea of bonding with Vivian.
After I got over the initial shock of the romantic setting and recognized
that it was only Evan and I, everything felt comfortable again. We
talked casualy and laughed easily. It was perfect. I’d almost forgotten
that we were sitting in the barn. The flickering light transformed the
room, hiding the games and tables in the shadows. I was soothed by
the candles and the music - lost in the soft light flickering in Evan’s
eyes. But, the anxiety returned when Evan set down a smal blue box in
front of me, instead of the dessert I was expecting.
I couldn’t find my voice or even breathe. He smiled at me from across
the table, watching me struggle for words.
“Don’t say anything,” he insisted. “This is what I wanted to do.”
I stared at him, unable to bring myself to open the box.
“You have to open it,” he pleaded. I looked nervously between him and
the box. “Please open it. You’re kiling me.”
I took a quick breath and slid the top off the box. I looked up at Evan
with wide eyes, stil unable to speak.
“I thought you should have one of your own to go with the sweater,” he
explained. “You like it, right?”

“Yes,” I breathed, too overwhelmed to touch the sparkling rock inside
the box. Evan stood behind me and removed it from the velvet to place
it around my neck. I gently caressed it with my shaking finger tips as it
lay against my skin.
I stood up to face him. “Thank you,” I whispered. I wrapped my arms
around him and extended on my toes to find his lips. My lips brushed
gently against his, lingering for a moment before slowly puling away.
Evan had his arms around my waist, holding me against him. The music
settled in around us and we found ourselves slowly moving to the
soothing seductive voice.
“Are we dancing?” I questioned with a smile.
“I think we are,” Evan agreed with a slight nod of his head. “Is that
“No, just something else I’ve never done before,” I admitted. I laid my
head under his chin, alowing him to sway me. The delicate strums and
smooth melodies were mesmerizing, adding to the enchantment of the
flickering lights and the warmth of his body. I searched his face as he
gazed down at me with a soft smile. My stomach fluttered and my
head felt light, I was completely consumed by him.
“I love you,” I whispered – the words flowed effortlessly from my
Evan puled me against him and pressed his lips to mine. The tender
kiss soon turned urgent, sending electric charges throughout my body.
His lips moved down my neck and his hands slid along my back under
the sweater. I let out an excited breath as I ran my hands along his
taught frame under his shirt. He puled it up over his head. We separated
long enough to alow him to drop it to the floor.

We were moving, stil in our passionate exchange, in the direction of
the room above the garage. I slid my sweater over my head and
dropped it behind me. Evan stopped.
“Are you sure?” he questioned with a heavy breath, studying my face
for a sign of doubt.
“Yes,” I said in a whispering sigh, puling him toward me again. He
eagerly accepted me. I kicked off my shoes and unbuttoned my pants.
Evan caught my hands.
“Realy, we don’t have to do this.”
“Evan, I love you. I want to. But if you don’t…” I started to zip my
pants, and his hands caught mine again. We stood stil for a second,
staring at each other. Then he slid down my zipper and eased my
pants over my hips. I stepped out of them and folowed him into the
room. He held me against his warm smooth skin before gently laying
me on top of the comforter, his mouth trailing along my shoulders
down to my stomach. He stood to remove his shoes and to slide off his
I wrapped my leg around the back of his thigh as he eased himself over
me. My mouth found his neck, and I traced my lips along his shoulder.
Our frantic breaths revealed our excitement, as his fingers traced
along my stomach, sending a thousand sparks shooting through my
Evan froze when the lights flashed through the front windows. My
eyes widened in alarm, as I held my breath.
“Oh no,” he exclaimed, jumping up to investigate. He grabbed his
pants and quickly stuffed each leg into them. I propped myself up on
my elbows, watching in shock as he hopped to put his shoes back on.

“Stay here,” he instructed as he rushed out the door, closing it behind
“Evan, you up there?” I heard a guy’s voice yel a few minutes later. You
have got to be kidding me! The distinct thump of footsteps climbed the
“Oh,” the voice exclaimed. “Are we interrupting something?”
A flood of light shone through the bottom of the closed door. I panicked.
Someone was in the other room. My clothes were in the other
room! I heard more footsteps and voices. I snuck off the bed and tiptoed
to the closet to find something to throw on.
“No,” Evan replied uneasily. “Um, I was just cleaning up.”
“Had a good birthday, huh?” the voice asked with a laugh.
“Jared, what are you doing here?” Evan finaly asked.
“Came here with a few of the guys to surprise you for your birthday.
Happy Birthday.”
“Thanks,” Evan responded. Jared didn’t seem to notice the tension in
his voice.
“Let’s turn on the music and play pool or something,” Jared suggested
emphaticaly. “Get whatever you want to drink at the bar.”
“Sounds good,” one of the other voices agreed. “What’s with al the
“It’s from earlier,” Evan stated dismissively.

In the dim light, I made out a pair of jogging pants and a sweatshirt. I
threw them on, folding the waistband of the oversized pants. The
clothes hung off me, but it was better than being practicaly naked.
“I should bring these plates to the house,” Evan told the guys.
“I’l be right back.”
The room on the other side of the door erupted with the belows of a
punk rock band and the crashing of pool bals. I sat on the bed, having
no idea what to do. I knew that there was no way I was going out that
door while they were stil in the other room.
“Emma?” Evan whispered. I jumped at the sound of the voice coming
from the floor. I leaned over the edge of the bed to find Evan peering
up through an open trap door in the floor. He was standing on a folddown
ladder that led to the garage.
“You can come down this way. They won’t know,” Evan explained.
I carefuly made my way down the ladder in my bare feet, with Evan
waiting at the bottom. He replaced the floor panel before folding the
ladder back up. Without saying anything, he grabbed my hand. I folowed
him out of the door into the cool moonlit night.
“I am so sorry,” he stressed while we walked in the damp grass of the
field behind his house. “I had no idea he was coming.”
“It’s okay.”
“I hid your clothes in the closet before they came up. I promise to get
them back to you.”
“I’m never going to see that sweater again, am I?”

“Wel, maybe after it stops smeling like you,” he responded with a grin.
Evan secured his arms around me. “We’l have other moments, I promise.
I’m not going anywhere… wel, not without you.”
“I know.”
“Nice outfit,” Sara observed with a smile when I walked into her bedroom.
“You have a story to share, that’s for sure.”
“How was your date with Tony?” I asked, trying to delay the inevitable
“Done,” Sara declared casualy, with a slight shrug. “Is that a diamond
around your neck? Em, start talking.”
I brushed over the more intimate scenes, much to Sara’s disappointment,
and when I was done with my account of the evening, Sara
erupted in laughter. I slowly joined in.
“I can’t believe you almost got caught your first time!” she exclaimed
in-between fits of laughter.
“Shut up, Sara,” I laughed, throwing a pilow at her. “It wasn’t my first
time. It didn’t happen.”
“You have the worst luck,” she belowed, tears roling down her cheeks.
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