He’s silent, but I have to hope he’s weighing my words. I’ve never given him a reason to doubt me before, and he knows that. Deep down, he knows that, because if I had, he would’ve suspected me and he’s already admitted he didn’t.
I don’t expect his next words. “Do you love him?”
My hand drops to his shoulder. This is so exasperating, and no amount of repeating myself is getting through to him. Do I love the stranger? Obviously not. I answer that question, it’s like I’m admitting there was something between us. I tell the truth, he thinks I’m being dishonest and shuts me down. I literally can’t win.
So I just say the only thing I can think to say. “I love you.”
There’s no telling how he’ll react to that—maybe with anger, judging by his reaction to my concern for his well-being. This certainly wasn’t how I wanted to tell him for the first time, literally in a dungeon under his house, but maybe that’s right. Maybe that’s perfect, because he’s him, and he is a little crazy, I just think it’s adorable. So maybe I’m also a little crazy.
Dropping his hand, Mateo spins me around to face the wall. I don’t immediately understand, until I hear him unzipping his pants. I brace my hands against the wall and don’t resist as he takes me, but there’s nothing tender or loving in it; it’s a punishment, a purging of his anger. Nevertheless, I don’t complain. If he can empty some of his anger in me, I’ll take it.
Another day passes alone in the dungeon. Maria brings down lunch, as if there’s nothing remotely odd about the situation. Day turns to night and I stay huddled against the wall, my pillow at my back, my blanket serving as a makeshift rug beneath me.
I don’t hear him approach, but I suddenly see Mateo. Popping out the ear buds, I hit stop on my little black CD player and sit up straighter, watching him expectantly.
He stands there for a moment, wordless.
We haven’t spoken a word to each other since I declared my love. He fucked me against the wall, and then left before I could even catch my breath.
My eyes move over him, his sharp suit, his put-together appearance, but he still looks tired.
He unlocks the door and it swings open, so I get to my feet. I don’t know if he’s coming in or I’m coming out.
He comes in. My heart’s pitter pattering at an uneven speed in my chest but I remain where I am, waiting. Mateo stops right in front of me, looking down at me in a way that makes me feel small. I swallow, and I’m pretty sure we can both hear it.
A moment later, Mateo reaches into his jacket and pulls out his gun. My breath catches, fear taking hold of me as he yanks back the muzzle without looking away from me, pushing a bullet into the chamber.
Before I can beg him to reconsider, he turns the gun around, pointing at his own chest, and placing my hand on the gun.
I can’t breathe, terrified it’s going to go off. I’ve never owned a gun. I held one once—my high school boyfriend had one, and he let me hold it without anything in it. But here, now, holding Mateo’s gun against his heart, knowing it’s locked and loaded, I’m terrified.
“If you still want to kill me, do it now,” he says simply.
As slowly as I can—like I’m going to scare the gun, accidentally make it react—I move the weapon away from his chest and toward the wall. “I don’t know what to do with this. Please take it back.”
“Last chance,” he states, not moving.
“I don’t want to kill you,” I say, eyes on the gun, still nervous about holding it. “I told you that.”
“Good,” he says, reaching out his hand for the gun. I don’t hand it to him, too afraid to move it, so he rolls his eyes and takes it out of my hand, disarming it for me. “Come on,” he says, turning around and heading down the hall toward the exit.
I’m not sure where we’re going, but I follow him without a word.
At the end of the long, silent walk, we’re back in his bedroom. It feels like an eternity since I’ve last stood here, even though I guess it’s only been a few days. Everything has changed in those few days, and I’m not even sure why I’m here now.
Mateo provides no clues, leading me there without explanation, his face betraying nothing.
Once inside, he closes the door behind us and takes out his phone, tapping on it briefly before dropping it into his pocket. He tugs his jacket off, tossing it on a chair near the bed, then turns his attention back to me. “Sit.”