I spend two more days playing board games with Vince. I’ve determined he’s not a bad guy—but he is shit at board games. At least he’s not a sore loser.
“You should bring Mia tomorrow,” I tell him, clearing up the Monopoly board after soundly trouncing him.
“Nah, I’m keeping her away while Mateo’s mad at you,” he says, pulling out his phone to check it. “Cherie’s bringing Jenga. I’m gonna beat you at Jenga.”
“Well, we’re having Sunday dinner again this week, so she’ll have to come to that anyway. And you don’t have to keep her away—he’s still mad at me, but not like before. He’s not going to…” I pause, unsure how to word this, since Mia specifically told me not to talk to Vince about her time with Mateo. “He won’t drag her into this,” I summarize.
“Sure he would.”
“Maybe he would’ve at one time, but he won’t now. He loves me. Whatever we have to do to work this out, he’s going to keep it between us.”
Vince sighs, watching me drop the box back on the game and set it aside. “Look, Meg. You seem nice. A little nuts, but nice. You’re stuck with him now, and I get that. But don’t lie to yourself about who he is; you’ll only end up disappointed. Mateo isn’t a good guy. He’s not a loyal guy. He killed the last woman who cheated on him—it’s a shitty thing to do, yeah, but he killed her for it—when he has no problem doing the same thing to someone else.”
“She tried to turn him over to the police, Vince. She betrayed him in every way she could. Look, I’m not a woman-hating woman; I’m not excited that he killed Beth. I wish she were alive on a beach in South America somewhere, living it up. I’m not saying it’s okay—he is responsible for the deaths of both our former partners. I’m sure there’s a lot more blood on his hands than I’d ever like to consider. I don’t know why I can live with that. I can’t explain it. But… honestly, I almost never see that side of him. He’s not like that with me. And I don’t know the whole history with you guys, and I don’t think I want to, but… it’s just that: history. I’m here now. He wants me; he doesn’t want to lose me. Maybe I can’t leave physically, but he can’t force me to love him. He knows if he brought Mia into this, he would lose me.”
Vince shrugs, but he still doesn’t look confident. “I hope you’re right. Regardless, I’m not bringing Mia here until I have to.”
“You all need to learn how to trust people,” I tell him, shaking my head as I get up to move Monopoly to the chair. “At least the people in this house—we’re all family here.”
“Tell that to whoever planted a phone that could’ve got you killed,” Vince returns.
I grimace, glancing back at him. “Wow, that’s a good point. Maybe I should be less trusting.”
Vince smiles, shaking his head, and heads out to the hallway to wait for Cherie.
Mateo comes to the bedroom in time for bedtime stories tonight. Ju brings the girls in and we all snuggle up in his giant bed. I fall a little more in love with him with every syllable that falls from his beautiful lips.
When the story’s over, the girls balk about going to bed. I think this is Lily’s fault; it seems like Isabella used to be more obedient. I never want to stop snuggling with Mateo either though, so I totally get it.
“Can we go to the doll store again?” Isabella asks.
“Maybe. Or we could do something else. There’s more to life than the doll store, you know,” he says, dropping a kiss on her forehead.
“I think we should get ice cream,” Lily tells him, poking his arm to get his attention back.
“We could get ice cream,” he agrees.
“And books,” she adds.
“Isabella’s like my sister, isn’t she?”
That’s a new one. I ease up, planning to take the pressure off answering, but before I can, Mateo tells her, “More or less, yeah.”
Isabella jumps in, now that Lily brought it up. “I saw you guys kissing.”
“Oh yeah?” Mateo asks, grabbing my arm and tugging me over to place a big, theatrical kiss on my cheek. “Like this?”
Both girls giggle. Lily shakes her head and drawls, “No.”
“Like you love her,” Isabella specifies.
“I do,” he says, again without hesitation.
I watch Lily, a little unsure how this is going to go over. We’ve talked about Rodney a little bit when she brought him up, but it hasn’t been as much as I expected. Rodney was always out and he was never involved with bedtime rituals like Mateo is. Since we moved out of the house he lived in and into a whole new life, it doesn’t seem like she even misses him.