Raven leaned against the wall outside his room, waiting for Missy to change her clothes.
He had insisted on her changing into something that wasn’t sleep-wrinkled.
He stared at the closed door.
If I were not myself…
If I hadn’t been raised with such strict expectations…
If I were free to live my life without fear, without any care for propriety…any sense of right and wrong…
What manner of man would I be?
Would Missy still love me?
Would I be happier if I did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted?
If I bent and yielded to every temptation….
I cannot imagine such a lifestyle being physically, emotionally, or spiritually rewarding. I would slowly come to hate myself. I am certain of it.
Missy would hate me too.
Even Miss Farlington would consider that alternate me to be loathsome and morally repugnant.
Panic surged through him as he realized that he hadn’t told Missy what to change into.
How could I have been so negligent?
She has lived at The Institute for the past ten years. How could she know what is church appropriate apparel?
He hurried to the door and raised his fist to knock.
The door opened.
Missy stood before him – a vision in a cream-colored camp shirt and a peach-colored swing skirt. The top two buttons of her shirt were left unbuttoned to show off her pink cubic zirconia choker. Her hair was once more secured into a bun. Black strappy heels completed her look. “I’m ready! How do I look? I feel so amazingly grown up in this outfit. Do I look it?”
It took Raven a few seconds to realize that his fist was still hanging out in the air. He lowered his fist. “Indeed. You are lovely.”
She blushed happily and grabbed his arm. “Let’s get this done and over with, Raven, so we can stop worrying about it and we can go on and get married and have 55,000 kids.”
He let out a surprised laugh. “Fifty-five thousand. I fail to see how that could be possible.”
She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
All of his fears and doubts left him as he returned her kiss.
And, in that moment, everything was fine.
His fears and doubts trickled back into place as he drove towards The Cardboard Box. What Ifs raced throughout his mind, crashing and merging into each other until they were nothing but a muddle of words.
Missy side-glanced at him every now and then, but she kept her thoughts to herself.
Her silence, however, didn’t help. It made him even more nervous and borderline anxious.
By the time he pulled into The Cardboard Box’s parking lot, he had fully crossed that borderline.
Raven parked the car and sat there, staring at the large box-shaped building.
Perhaps we should save this for another day. Ambrose is waiting. I do not wish to keep him waiting. Besides, why not wait? Why not spend one more night and one more day in stressed out ignorance? As soon as we learn the truth, there is no unlearning it. If we are related, I will have to let her go. For there is no way we could continue to live together.
Yet, the thought of letting her go sickens me.
Missy put her hand on his knee. “Should we just run away?”
Yes. “No. We must do this. If not today, we will have to do it tomorrow or the next day or the next. We need to know the truth.”
“Even if it hurts?”
He tightened his grip on the steering wheel. “Even if it stakes both of our hearts.”
“Raven. Look at me.”
She grinned at him.
“What? I do not understand. What are you grinning about?”
“I’m trying to put both of us into a more positive mindset. If we go into this with dour faces, something bad is going to happen. But if we do it with mad crazy big smiles on our faces—-”
Raven laughed despite himself. “Everyone in the DNA Testing Lab will assume that we are both quite mad.”
She laughed. “Maybe, but that’s their problem.”
He released the steering wheel, unbuckled his seatbelt, and kissed her. “I love you.” he whispered.
“I love you too.”
He opened his eyes.
He took in all of the small details of her face. All of those small things that made her different from any other woman. All of those details that made it her face and no one else’s.
She traced the bumpy lines of his braid with her finger as if there were a Braille message hidden inside of it.
“Must we go inside?” he asked.
“If you don’t want to if you want to wait for another day—-”
“No. I mean, yes, I do. Yet…”
Missy sighed. “I know.” She unbuckled her seatbelt. “Kiss me one more time, Raven. Just in case.”
He was only too happy to oblige.