I nod, because I totally get it. “Yeah, I know.” Flashing her my engagement ring, I add, “Rabbit hole inhabitant, right here.”
The sight of my ring causes her to dim a bit, and I remember she doesn’t know what I know.
“Would you leave Vince, if you could? If you wouldn’t lose your place in the world?”
Looking a little unsure, she asks, “My place in the world?”
“Your place in the Morelli world,” I specify, holding her gaze. “Mateo and I touched on this after the wedding. Neither of us really thinks you and Vince are going to make it—no offense. What if Mateo kept paying your tuition and you moved back to the mansion?”
“Back to the mansion?” she questions, her big blue eyes about as wide as they can get. Then she looks about as torn as a person can. I wish she’d say why, but she can’t, because Mateo has to be out doing other things and not catching her up on the decisions we’ve made about her life. Damn the man.
“Yeah. Francesca’s wing’s available again, after all.”
Mia considers this for a very long time. Well, only a couple minutes, but it seems like an exceedingly long time. Finally she looks back at me and shakes her head. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. Mateo owns me when I live here.” Then she clears her throat and adds, “I don’t see myself leaving Vince in the immediate future anyway, so we probably don’t have to worry about it yet.”
I walk over and join her on the bed, reaching over to place my hand on hers. “I spent a lot of time in a relationship with someone I didn’t love. Like, not even as much as you love Vince, I think. When he died, I literally felt nothing. I never cried. I felt like a monster, but… I didn’t care. You’re obviously more of a feeler than I am, so I know you would feel that deeply. You’re more loving. More of a giver. But be careful you don’t give too much, because the men in our lives? They like to take. It doesn’t feel like you’re being replenished.”
Mia sighs miserably, not looking at me. “I think Vince hates me. Like, really hates me. I don’t understand why he keeps holding on.”
Shrugging, I offer, “Maybe he thinks the same of you.”
Shaking her head before she can think better of it, she says, “No, he knows why I stay.” Her eyes widen briefly, like she just slipped, but she promptly catches herself and schools her expression. I imagine it has something to do with Mateo, so I don’t press. No point making her feel guilty now, when he’ll talk to her about all this later.
“Anyway, this conversation isn’t cheerful,” she tells me, offering a slight smile.
“I want you to be happy,” I tell her honestly.
Her smile is sad as she places her hand over mine, her gaze drifting to my stomach. “And I want you to be happy.”
It goes without saying, and she’d never say so because she wouldn’t want to guilt me, but if only one of us can be happy, Mia would let it be me. She is so much better, so much kinder than I am. I don’t think I could ever make that kind of sacrifice for her.
But then, she isn’t just making it for me. She’s making it for Mateo. She knows we’re happy together. If I guarantee his happiness, then that’s that.
Impulsively, I wrap my arm around her shoulder and give her a sideways hug. “You’re a really good friend, Mia.”
She tries for a nervous laugh, but it comes out more of a guilty sob. “No, I’m not.”
I squeeze her. “Yes, you are. Don’t argue with me, I know what I’m talking about.”
She sighs, resting her head on my shoulder, and I wish Mateo would get his ass home so he could lighten the burden on Mia’s shoulders.
Of course this is one of the rare nights Mateo doesn’t make it home in time for dinner.
Adrian is out with him, so it’s just me, Mia, and Elise. I still don’t think Elise likes us, but we invite her to sit at our end of the table anyway, since it’s silly to be all spread out at our assigned seats when my beloved isn’t here to be bothered by our informality.
“What are you going to name the baby?” I ask.
At this, Elise brightens. After Francesca’s wedding, Adrian informed Mateo that he proposed to Elise, and that she’s pregnant. My thought is that since we’re having babies so close together, we can bond over mommy things.
“Obviously we don’t know what we’re having yet, but we have first names picked out for both. We still have to decide on middle names, but we like Westley for a boy, Candace for a girl.”