Friday night I’m alone, so when I’m done processing Mateo’s absence, my thoughts turn to Vince. I’m up late since I kept waiting for Mateo and he never came. My homework’s all done. I’m going back to the bakery for a shift in the morning, so I should sleep, but I can’t. I’m tired, but my head is too full for sleep. I’m too afraid of what kind of dreams are waiting for me when my eyes finally close.
So, I do the dumb thing. I grab my cell phone, curl up in my sea of blankets, and scroll through old photos. I haven’t taken any lately, but I took one the first night with Mateo. He’s rolling his eyes because he thinks it’s stupid to need a selfie to memorialize our time together, but I wanted proof. I wanted something I could look at forever, in case it slipped away. It hurts to look at it now. There’s a reluctant smile on his lips, even though he’s rolling his eyes at my behavior, because he’s happy. And I’m happy. I’m literally glowing with happiness, eyes sparkling, grin wide. I look somehow lighter as I hold my phone out with one arm and hook the other around his neck, bringing him close so our faces are together in the shot.
It makes my heart hurt.
I scroll past it, not wanting to look at it anymore. Luckily the next one is me and Mark at Francesca’s wedding. We’re posing like fake gangstas, even though he’s a real one, and at least this one makes me smile. There’s no darkness associated with this one. It reminds me that tomorrow’s Saturday, and I hope Mark stops in at the bakery. I missed him last week since I didn’t go to work, but I’d like to see him.
The third picture is more what I expected, and my heart cracks open, just a little. Me and Vince at Francesca’s wedding, all dressed up. He looks so handsome, his arm curled protectively around me, and he didn’t even like me much that night. Still, he was protective.
Now other memories of that night are flooding back, all the sadness. My dance with Mateo. Mateo stealing me away from Vince for said dance, and the pain I knew I was causing him, but I did it anyway. I would let Vince pay with his pain for my stolen moment with Mateo.
To be fair, I thought I would pay him back. I didn’t think this would happen. I thought Vince would still have me later, to punish with bitter hate sex and mend with scrambled eggs. I didn’t think that was ending anytime soon.
There are a lot of photos of the wedding, so I scroll through those much faster. Then I get to a random one that I completely forgot I took—Vince is making a funny face at me, sitting beside me in a booth at a restaurant. I thought he looked really handsome that day and I told him to give me a smile. He did that instead. I nudged him in the shoulder, rolling my eyes, and he grabbed me and pulled me in for a kiss.
Well, shit. Now I’m crying.
I keep looking though. I keep looking at pictures of Vince, pictures of me and Vince. There’s one of him in bed, the sun shining through the window of our bedroom. His shirt’s off and he’s looking up at me with his signature unimpressed sulk.
God, I miss that sulky face.
Now I miss them both.
It’s probably good Mateo isn’t here, I decide, as I set my alarm and put my phone back on the nightstand. Tears flow freely down my face now, and I haven’t been crying myself to sleep the last few nights. I’ve been distracted by Mateo. If he was in bed with me right now, his arms locked around me, he would be here for this, too.
Though I guess if he’d been here, I wouldn’t have just taken a stroll down memory lane, so I wouldn’t be crying.
But he didn’t come.
So I cry myself to sleep, all by myself, just like I told him I wanted.
The bells on the door jingle, alerting me to a new customer. My face lights up momentarily when I see Mark, but fades fast when I see the look of concern on his face. He doesn’t even stop behind the counter; he walks around the display like he did when he used to work here and grabs me, wrapping me in his arms and giving me a firm hug, just like that night at the wedding.
It sort of makes me want to cry, because he has to know. There’s no other reason for this. And the idea of Vince’s death being talked about, being gossip-worthy, making it over to the Castellanos family upsets me. I don’t even know the details of what kind of work Vince did for Mateo (he said it was better if I didn’t know, for practical purposes), but I guess it makes sense that people in their circles would notice him missing.