I shake my head slowly. “I don’t believe you. You’re a very good liar, Mateo. And that’s not something to be proud of.”
“Right. So why are you so sure Danny Alexander is the nice one, and not me?”
“Because look at you,” I scoff. “You’re such a fucking freak.”
“I’m sitting here in a chair, masturbating as I tell you a fantasy, Shannon. It’s hot.” And then he laughs. “You know it is.”
“It’s weird,” I say. “I’m speechless with you most of the time because you’re blowing my fucking mind. You make no sense to me. You don’t follow the rules.”
“Whose rules? Your rules?”
“School rules, for one. You’re my fucking teacher!”
“Technically, no. I’m a subcontractor. But ethically, yes.”
“It’s the ethics that count, don’t you think?”
“So walk out. Report me to Bowman. Call the police. Do whatever the fuck you want.”
My thoughts are racing around in my head. “Maybe I will.”
“At least you’d be invested. At least you’d stop just sitting here, begging me to get you out of this.”
“Beg you!” Holy shit. “To get me out of what?” I just want to punch him in the fucking face right now.
“OK,” I huff. “I’m done here.” I push my chair back to stand, but his words stop me.
“You want to skate through school, you said, take tests and call it learning. You want the prize without the work that goes into it. You want things you don’t deserve.”
“You don’t know what I deserve,” I say quietly. “You have no idea what I deserve.”
“I know,” he says, nodding. “But I do know what you don’t deserve. And you can deny it all you want, it won’t change the fact that you didn’t earn it. I’m asking you to earn it.”
“Earn what, Mateo? You make no sense.”
“It.” he replies. And then he lifts his hands up towards the ceiling.
“What’s any of this,” I say, lifting my hands up in the same way, “have to do with sex?”
He just smiles. “Nothing at all. It’s got nothing at all to do with sex. I just like you and I want to fuck you, and tease you, and play you. Not like that,” he says, seeing the anger inside me building. “Not like a victim, Shannon. Like an instrument.”
He reaches over for a roll of paper towels sitting on the table next to him, rips one off, and cleans up the mess on his stomach. He throws it into the trash, stands up, and puts himself back together.
“If you want to walk away,” he says, grabbing his book from the table, “go ahead. Report me to Bowman, tell the police, do whatever the fuck you want. But I’m trying to tell you, I’m invested. So go date Danny Alexander if you want. You can quit this class and drop out of school. You can fuck everything up. You’re a grown woman, you can make whatever choice you feel is best. But when you look back in ten years and wonder where it all went wrong, don’t blame me, Shannon. Because I gave a fuck and you walked out.”
And then he walks out. He’s got that stupid book in his hand and he just walks out and leaves me there.
I sit in silence for, fuck—minutes, I think.
“You done in here?”
I whirl around in my chair and find the janitor peeking his head into the room.
“I’m locking up, kid. Time to go home.”
I nod, dragging myself out of my stupor, and grab my backpack. I don’t say a word as I walk past him and out of the school. It’s dark already and the parking lot is empty. But off to the left I can hear the low rumble of a motorcycle.
I look over and see Mateo, helmet and leather jacket on, staring at me.
I walk towards him and stop a few feet away. He’s holding out a flannel and a helmet. I take the flannel and slip it on, hiking my pack up onto my back, and then shove the helmet down on my head as I swing my leg over the seat.
I sigh as I press my cheek against his jacket, taking in the scent of him, and wrap my arms around his waist. He places a hand on mine for a second, and then we move forward and leave the school behind.
He doesn’t take me home. He pulls into his driveway and I sit on the back of the bike as we wait for the garage to open. He pulls in, turns the bike off, and kicks down the stand.
There are at least half a dozen cars in his giant garage. All classics. An old Mustang, a classic Camaro, a GTO, and some more I can’t easily identify, plus parts. The place is spilling over with cars and it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. I get a sense that there is a lot more to Mateo Alesci than meets the eye. I don’t know him any more than he knows me.
I take my helmet off and swing my leg over the bike. He does the same.
And we look at each other.
“You wanna go to the beach with me tomorrow night?” he asks.
I nod and place the helmet on his seat.
“Pick you up in front of your house at seven.”
He walks away and goes inside his house.
I’m barely aware of the traffic on Broadway as I cross the street, walk through the gate of the apartments that are not mine, enter the alley on the other side, and make my way to my patio. I have to lean against the brick wall next to my window and take a few deep breaths.
I don’t know anything right now. I’m blown. I go inside and I don’t even hear Jason’s snide remarks as he gathers his keys and walks out, leaving me with a sleeping Olivia.
I am blown.
I have been babysitting on Saturdays ever since Jill died. Jason always works breakfast and lunch on the weekends and he leaves early in the morning. But Olivia woke up around three AM and didn’t stop crying. When I went into Jason’s room to see what the problem was, he wasn’t there. He never came home. Asshole. I’m so fucking pissed about that. Responsible people don’t stay out all night when they have a baby at home.
And she’s been cranky all day too. I’m just starting to wonder if I should take her temperature and see if she’s sick or something when at ten minutes to seven, Jason walks in looking like total shit.
“Where the fuck have you been?”
“Working,” he sneers, walking into the kitchen. “Foreign concept, I know.” He starts making Olivia a bottle.
“She already has a bottle, Jason. She might be sick.”
“You just make it wrong.”
“OK,” I say, grabbing my purse. “I’m out of here.” I go out the back way, like normal—I don’t like the thought of Jason watching me out the front window as I wait for Mateo. It creeps me out far more than anything that’s happened between me and my teacher. I walk back up the alley to the laundry building and slip through the passageway that leads back to the front.
“Hey, Shannon,” a woman says off to my left.
Shit, that cop chick. I nod and keep walking.
“How’s your niece?’”
“What?” I ask, stopping to turn.
“The baby. I heard her crying today. Is everything OK?”
“Oh, yeah,” I say, letting out a sigh. “She was fussy all day. But Jason’s home now, he’ll get her to sleep. He’s good at it.” He is too. I have to reluctantly admit that.