I need to get back in that house. I need to stop him. Someone has to stop him.
“Please,” I try again, but my voice gives out, gets lost on a sob.
Colin lets me go to open his car door, but I finally break away. I don’t run for the house—I run for the Escalade. Adrian is inside the Escalade.
Throwing open the door, I try to assemble a comprehendible sentence, but helpless words tumble out of my mouth like alphabet soup. “Adrian! Mateo. Vince. Adrian, please go help Vince. Please! Mateo’s—Mateo…”
I don’t know how to explain. Forgot his soul in his other suit pocket? Is a monster? Has lost his goddamn mind? Has gone dark?
Adrian seems to understand. He looks sympathetic, but he doesn’t move to get out of the car.
“Get in, Mia,” he says, sadly.
“You have to go help Vince!”
“I’ll never forgive him for this,” I tell Adrian, shaking my head. “Not ever.”
“Vince knew what he was doing, Mia. This should’ve happened already.”
“What is wrong with you people?” I scream, grabbing at my hair. “What is wrong with you? He’s your friend! You watched him grow up! Do none of you have souls?”
This time Adrian gets out, but he doesn’t go in the house. He walks around to the passenger side and pops open the glove compartment, then he approaches me and tugs me into the seat.
He pops a pill into my mouth and tells me, “Swallow.”
I spit it out.
Opening the glove compartment again, he grabs another pill and hands it to me.
“Put this in your mouth or I shove it down your throat.”
“Go help him,” I say lowly.
“Please don’t make me be mean to you, Mia.”
I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. Here I am, surrounded by people I’ve thought of as family, and they all feel like strangers. I feel like I’ve been having a goddamn tea party with a group of slimy, razor-toothed monsters, and I just haven’t been able to see them clearly until now.
“I’ll never forgive any of you for this,” I tell him.
At least Adrian looks like he gives half a damn. Only half. Not a whole damn. Still more than Mateo.
I try to remember what Vince’s last words to me were.
I’m sure they were about Mateo.
Oh, my god. Vince’s last words.
I dissolve into helpless tears. Adrian tries to give me a hug, but I shove him away. I climb into the Escalade, my breath hitching, near hyperventilating, and I see Meg. She’s frozen, her hands covering her mouth, staring at me. Her blue eyes are wide with horror and glistening with unshed tears.
Adrian finally does glance toward the house, but he doesn’t go in right away. He goes over to talk to Colin first. Mateo still hasn’t emerged.
It lasts forever. I have to sit there, unable to help, knowing what’s happening inside the house I shared with Vince, knowing it’s entirely my fault. Knowing the kid who tried so hard to save me is being beaten to death by the monster he tried to save me from, and it’s all. My. Fault.
Finally Mateo comes outside.
I try not to look at him, but when he climbs inside the car, it’s impossible. I’m confronted with the visual evidence—Vince’s blood all over Mateo’s snowy white shirt, on his busted knuckles; I barely make it outside the car to vomit.
Colin comes over to check on me, but I don’t want him near me. I don’t want any of them near me. The only person I want near me is the one who never will be again. I wish I would’ve let Vince burn down the house they all sleep in. I wish I would’ve sold Mateo more on how much I wanted to stay with Vince. I would’ve stayed. If this was the alternative, I would’ve stayed with Vince forever. I would’ve been faithful.
I wish I’d never met Mateo.
I wish I could wake up in the morning and have Vince be making me breakfast. I wish I could go in and hug him, and not be such a horrible fucking person. I want a second chance. I need a do-over. This was a mistake. I made so many mistakes and they all have consequences. They come at a cost.
My legs give out, and I’m just sitting on the sidewalk where Mateo gave us the keys, Where he gave us a measure of freedom before I threw it away. Where Vince adorably lamented having to live on jarred spaghetti sauce.
I’m so lost in grief I don’t even know who picks me up and carries me back to the car. I don’t initially realize it’s Mateo. When I do, I shove him. I hit him. He lets me. I get Vince’s blood on my hands. I stare at it and break down again.
“Mia,” Mateo finally says, reaching a hand toward me.