Evelyn brushed frustrated at her eye with a deep breath and kept walking. The crunch of gravel under her patent leather shoes sounded too loud, drowning out the hum of crickets suddenly silencing in front of her as she went quickly down the path. It was one of those sounds that a person could focus on while they walk and think nothing. Her mind kept trying to go to it and she kept pulling it away. She wished the grass and weeds were growing up in the path a little thicker so she wouldn’t hear the constant crunch of gravel.
Danny would be upset. Of course he was. She couldn’t get the image of his face out of her mind, the way he’d looked at her like she was betraying him and at the same time trying not to look like anything. She wiped again at her eye angrily and went off the path.
There was an old stone cottage erected there, a tiny thing, long deserted. Its moldy thatched roof was caving in behind the door, looking like a gaping hole in the darkness. Evelyn stepped through the damp grass to the back of the house where she knew there was a mossy bench hidden from the road. She sat with a terse sigh and brushed her skirt.
The crunching gravel was gone. The night seemed oddly quiet. Only the crickets in the distance were singing now. Evelyn released her breath and closed her eyes, thinking back on the evening and trying to sort things out. She’d known Danny for-- what was it, three years now? Almost four. Earlier this summer, he’d asked her to marry him, and until now she’d considered that the happiest day of her life so far. But now...
A businessman. That’s what she’d always known him to be. A man of business who’d done well for himself like his partners had. Now she knew why he’d never seemed to want to talk about it much, though that one time he’d gone on about it to her father, wanting to make a good impression she’d assumed. Even now she wanted to smile at the memory, but there was too much anger. He’d lied. She couldn’t for the life of her understand why he’d just come to her now, after all this time, and told her for no apparent reason. “I told you about my jewelry business,” he’d said. “Well now I’ve got to tell you I quit it, and I want to tell you why.” She almost wished he hadn’t and that they could have lived their lives with this never coming out between them. But she knew that was her own weakness whispering to her and that it was wrong.
“My business hasn’t been exactly honest,” he’d said carefully, holding her hands in his lap and looking her in the eye the whole time. As if he had any right to! “Not everything we’ve sold has been real like we said it was. So we charged quite a bit more to a lot of people who didn’t know any better and didn’t have the sense to hire someone that could find out. That’s really how we make most of our money.” How could he have been so matter-of-fact about it? Didn’t he have any conscience at all? Didn’t his thieving and lying bother him, or the fact that he knew it’d be hard for her to hear? Surely he knew that didn’t he? She sat there in the silence, forcing her tears back with her anger and just didn’t understand.
Then the gravel sound was there again, faintly. Evelyn turned her head and listened. Someone was coming up the road. She relaxed at first because she knew they couldn’t see her, and waited for them to go by so she could return to her sense of solitude. Instead, as the footsteps came to where they must have been almost in front of the house, they stopped for a long moment. Evelyn frowned and listened.
Her eyes widened a bit. She didn’t move or answer Danny. She heard him walking through the tall grass towards the back of the house. She hadn’t expected him to come looking for her. There was nowhere to go now. She looked up with a faint scowl as he came around the corner, his hands in his pockets and his feet half buried in the grass where there was a distinct trail in the dew marking where she had walked. Danny stood there looking at her passively. She let her scowl deepen in defiance before she crossed her arms and looked straight ahead.
Danny let out a soft sigh and looked out the same way she was, over a moon-glittering field of wet grass like what surrounded their ankles now. “Are you going to stay mad, Elly?”
“I have a right to don’t I?”
He looked down at her silently, and for a moment didn’t answer. “I wish you’d let me explain,” he said quietly. She didn’t look at him. “Will you walk with me?”
Her jaw tightened and she thought of the gravel, constant, two sets, out of rhythm, but she stood, making it clear how she felt about it by her quick movements. Danny relaxed slightly though and stepped aside so she could get by, and followed her to the road. They walked in silence for a ways, Danny with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the road at his feet, Evelyn with her arms swinging stiffly at her side and her head turned away.
"I didn't have to tell you you know."
"That doesn't change anything," she answered tersely.
"Does it change anything that I did it for you?" he countered with a touch of anger now too.
She turned on him. "And I suppose you're going to say that you were only working a racket like that for me too, are you?"
Danny shoved his fists deeper into his pockets and scowled at her under his tossle of black hair. “I quit it didn’t I? You didn’t know about it or anybody else and I quit it. I didn’t have to do that, Evelyn. I could have got off scott free with it and no one would have been the wiser. But I quit it because I knew you wouldn’t like it, that’s what I did for you, because I thought you’d want it!” He turned ahead again with a dark scowl and continued walking, the heels of his shoes grinding loudly on the stoney path.
Evelyn scowled after him a long moment before she followed, not caring to catch up. She walked with her arms folded and her gaze turned out over the field. Against her will, she felt her anger and the hard line across her brow slowly slipping. She glanced at the back of him anxiously, at his stiff shoulders, and stepped quicker to catch up beside him. He didn’t look at her, but started walking a little slower. Again they were silent, for a long time.
“I’m scared, Elly.” The admission fell softly on her ears. She hesitated before looking up at the side of his face. She hadn’t seen Danny look scared before, or heard fear’s faint tremble in his voice, but it was there, brushing his hardened forehead. “I thought I’d make you proud of me, but now I wonder, do you trust me?” He turned to look at her with a stab of pain in his dark eyes that hurt for her to look at. She couldn’t look away though, and as much as she hated it, she couldn’t say anything to answer. In the moonlight, something glistened in his eye as he turned away. She looked away quickly too-- stared down at the road with tears brimming. She was listening to the gravel under both their shoes when he touched her shoulder and stepped in front of her. Danny held her gaze intently with tears brimming in his eyes.
“I can’t take it if you’re like this,” he said quietly. “I’d do anything for you, you know that don’t you? Don’t we love each other? I need to know you trust me, Elly, I’ll do whatever I have to to make you know that.” She’d rarely seen him so serious, and never so desperate. Danny, begging her. Evelyn stared at him and he was afraid she wouldn’t say anything.
Gently she touched his hand where he was holding her arm tightly without realizing. He let her go with a tear on his cheek, her eyes still on his face. “I do trust you, Danny,” she said softly. She bent his head down to her and kissed his forehead softly before she started to move away. “I’ll have to think about it.” His chest rose and fell with an anxious feeling of panic as he watched her turn around and start back down the gravel road towards home again. A tear slipped down his face and fell into the stones.
“I love you, Elly,” he whispered after her. “Remember that, please?”