I never saw it before, and I wasn’t on the outside when it happened. I was inside the darkness with him. It’s different inside. It’s different when you have him in the storm with you.
I’m a bystander now, and I don’t like it.
On Friday, I catch Elise in the kitchen making lunch. Mateo and Adrian are both out, and I feel a little excited for human interaction. I’ve considered going to Mia, since she’s really my only friend, but I’m too afraid. I’m not good with death, clearly. I’m not soft enough. I don’t know what to say to people.
Also I don’t want to see if he’s hurt her. That makes me the worst kind of coward, but every flutter of baby kicks in my womb spawns more fear. I’ve never been afraid of Mateo, but I’ve always known to be frightened of what he’s capable of. I’ve never been able to wholly believe the reassurances, that there’s a line he won’t cross, that he didn’t cross with Mia. Now each night that he spends in her bed I lie awake, consumed by it. Is there even a slim possibility she wants him there? I tell myself there is. She’s always had a soft spot for him. It’s just hard to imagine the feral, broken creature I last saw accepting his affection.
And it makes me want to throw up to consider the alternative.
It makes me want to leave, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to anymore.
Elise gives me a polite attempt at a smile as she stands at the counter, mixing ingredients in a bowl.
“Making lunch?” I ask, lightness I don’t feel manufactured in my tone.
“Adrian said they’ll be home for lunch today.”
“Oh.” My stomach shouldn’t drop. I shouldn’t dread the prospect of seeing Mateo.
“So I’m making something I know he likes,” she continues, answering my original question.
“It must be nice, huh?” I ask, again lightly, managing a smile. “Hitching your star to a man with a soul?”
Not even bothering to look surprised, Elise nods. “I highly recommend it.”
“Mateo doesn’t tell me when he’s coming home for lunch,” I tell her. I don’t know why I tell her that. It just spills out of my mouth. “He doesn’t tell me much of anything right now. I’ve never seen him like this before. I’ve never…” I pause, unsure how to put it into words. “You were here when he was with Mia before, right?”
Elise nods her head. She knows I already know that, because I asked her about it before, but she doesn’t look eager to offer me anything.
“What was it like?”
“Like this,” she says, flatly.
“This?” I question.
She indicates around the room, around the house, I guess. “The pall. The darkness. When Mateo’s in one of his maniacal fits, it weighs on all of us. I guess it’s a little different this time, since Vince isn’t storming around, adding his fury to the mix. But otherwise it’s the same.”
“Mia wasn’t happy then either?”
Elise practically glares at me for that one. “I already told you she wasn’t. It was exactly like this,” she says, and this time, I think to be mean. “Nobody saw her. She was locked away and kept in his bed every day. Eventually he’ll make her come to at least Sunday dinners again, only Vince won’t be there this time.” Elise shakes her head. “It’s exactly like it was. At least I don’t have to change the sheets now, I guess.”
That makes me want to cry.
I blame the baby, but the blame now probably lies with the baby’s father.
Maybe its mother.
I think we’re all to blame. Each and every one of us has, at some point, agreed to loyally serve this disaster of a man.
At the time we probably didn’t think we’d have to witness him beat one of our family members to death. That was maybe a little more than we realized we were signing on for. But that was our own naiveté. We should’ve known it was possible. Without violent reminders of his dark side, we let ourselves forget. He has different sides, like a person, so it’s hard to be vigilant and remember that even when he appears harmless, there’s a monster just beneath the surface.
I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to feel safe with him again.
I don’t know how to convince myself Mia’s safe.
Since Elise doesn’t like me anyway, I don’t linger in the kitchen. I was going to grab food, but I’m no longer hungry.
I decide to go to bed. Who cares if it’s afternoon? Francesca is back from her honeymoon, so she’s back at the bakery, and between the pregnancy and the events that have recently unfolded in life, my sleep pattern has gone to shit.
I’m worried about everything, and the only way to stop is to sleep, so I do.