I knew I was going to make her my wife the first day I saw her.
She stood out quite easily among the vast congregation of the church - she was the only one wearing a leopard print skirt - yet she looked like she belonged on that specific spot on the pew. She was a small girl, very petite, but she never failed to impress me with the height of her high heel shoes and how gracefully she managed to walk in them. She put the rest of the women to shame when she strolled through the sanctuary to find her favorite seat, clack-clacking rhythmically the entire way; I knew she wasn't even yet twenty years old.
Her hair was black then and much shorter; it was winter.
It's almost blonde now.
She would look at me in that polite I-don't-know-you-but-thanks-for-taking-my-hard-earned-money-offering way, completely oblivious of me. It was like she was staring right through me, and she had no idea.
Her eyes were like dark chocolate opals, catching glimpses of the light when the fringe of her messy bangs would allow it; the world's finest gems are mere coals in comparison. And although you could see the sadness in her eyes, occasionally that beautiful smile that made the sunrise look so dull graced the world with its revelation.
It was then that I fell in love with her.
And when she came one Sunday morning with her almost-blonde hair and her big white hat and daisy print dress, I knew something had changed. She had changed. She was singing Amazing Grace and dancing and clapping as the orchestra played, something I had never seen her do before. It was an outstanding feat in itself, the way she made my heart melt into my knees just by being there, unaware of my existence or how easily I could adore her.
My hands were trembling when I first shook hers, and it was like I had been zapped with electricity as soon as I touched her little fingers. They were so warm, almost like feathers when they grasped my own clammy ones; she didn't seem to notice. Our eyes locked for much longer than usual - it was like an eternity had passed while we acknowledged each other - and for the first time, she smiled at me. Not the usher that was greeting her by default before service started.
Her hair had grown so much since that cold season.
Every Sunday, for months without fail she would smile at me more warmly than I had ever experienced before; it was as though each week her heart would soften just a little bit more. And just the week before it happened, I watched as she anything but disappeared into the overflow of congregants leaving the sanctuary of the church. She had turned to look at me, and although we were a considerable distance away from each other I could still see the light in those big eyes of hers. I wanted to meet her that much more. I had to meet her.
And then the day came that I did: curiously, she wasn't standing with her family like she had always been. Her guard dog of a father could always be seen lingering around her, leading her out – always there – but this week he was gone, and she was with her friends. And then some kind of God given courage overcame me, and before I could even realize what I was doing my feet had carried and parked me directly in front of her. I was significantly much taller than her, even with those enormous heels strapped to her thin legs.
She watched me expectantly, her eyes looking directly into me from beneath the wide brim of her church hat. The jewels around her neck and fingers twinkled like stars beneath the fluorescent lights of the sanctuary, working almost like a spotlight. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and I could already feel the nervous tingling in the tips of my fingers and toes threatening to petrify me in my steps. It was almost a battle against my own insecurity just to walk those agonizing ten steps to reach her, but it felt like miles. I never wanted to be that far from her.
Everyone else disappeared around us while we stood there, shaking hands for longer than actually intended, our fingers interlocked in a seal that refused to break. I wasn't even sure what I was saying because I was so intrigued by her presence, and those gorgeous painted lips, and those eyes that soaked into my soul.
I could hear my heart slamming against my eardrums, quickly silencing as she blessed humanity with the sound of her voice.
"I'm Evangeline," she said, after I introduced myself. "It's so nice to finally meet you."
A choir of angels couldn't compare to the sweetness of her voice, regardless of that quirky southern drawl it carried so distinctly.
Before I knew it, I had poured half of my heart into three sentences, gushing about how I had always seen her around (but conveniently leaving out how long) and ached to speak to her, but for whatever reason I never could. Her porcelain cheeks flushed pink when I said it, broadening that irresistible seraphic smile even wider, swelling my heart with its growth.
Then she laughed, and it was like the sound of a baby's coo, a gentle little lull amidst the bustle of music and people talking around us, suddenly reminding us of their existence. We had both forgotten anyone else inhabited the planet until a poorly timed line of congregants separated us. My heart was performing back flips, and I could feel it flexing and contracting in utter joy just at the sight of her. It was as if that was its only purpose: to beat specifically for that girl with the almost-blonde hair and big white hat and daisy print dress.
My own family beckoned me to leave, and we parted painfully, my eyes never falling away from her small figure even after she finally faded into the distance. The grace in her angelic stride left little footprints on my heart and seemed to steal it away after she left; she probably didn't even know it, either. Even the tiniest wiggling of her skinny fingers made my knees start to knock against each other like two quarreling brothers, and part of me was glad she didn't turn around to witness it.
"I'll see you next Sunday?" I had asked, my hopes higher than a child on Christmas morning.
And she left me with a feeling like I never wanted to ask that question after that, like I wanted to be absolutely and undeniably certain of the answer because she was going to come next week with me. She left me aching so heavily to see her for just another sixty seconds, with a faint sense of emptiness that I never wanted to experience again when she was gone. I was determined to see her again; seven days was too excruciatingly long of a wait.
I departed from the church that morning with her sweet name lingering on my lips.