“I’m calm now.”
“So you didn’t understand the question? Maybe Mateo needs to change his teaching methods?”
I can’t tell if that’s a dig or not, so I assume it’s not. “It’s not that. I understood the question, but I don’t think I know the x and y coordinates of the unit circle from memory. I remember glancing at that section and seeing all this square root shit, and I said, fuck that.”
Danny laughs. “I didn’t realize ‘fuck that’ was an option in school. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong? Did you study it?”
“Study it? I don’t study, Danny.”
“Oh.” He laughs. “Excuse me, Miss Einstein. Most of us dimwits have to study to pass tests.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. I just mean, usually I can remember enough from homework to get by. But this question was ridiculous, you know?”
“Ah,” he says as he drives. He probably thinks I’m emotionally unstable and a snooty bitch on top of it. “You wanna go out to eat with me? I’m buying.”
My stomach grumbles, that’s how much I want to go out to dinner. “I can’t. Jason is waiting for me and I can only guess the next fight will be the best all day.”
“Want me to come in with you?”
“No.” I sigh. “That will just piss him off more.”
“OK,” he says, turning into my alley and stopping in front of my patio door. “Want a ride to school tomorrow?”
“I’ll walk, but thank you so much.” I smile at him. “Really. I think you’re my only friend in this stupid town.”
“An honor I cherish. I’m just down the street if you need me.”
“Thank you,” I say, getting out of the car and waving as he drives off.
“I told you not to come home,” Jason says from the open patio door.
My anger is back. I hate everyone but Danny right now. “Hey, if that’s how you feel, let me grab my clothes and I’m outta here.”
I push past him and go inside, glance down at sleeping Olivia in that stupid swing, and go into my room. Jason appears in the doorway, hands on either side of the jamb, blocking me in.
I spy the window and calculate my chances of opening it up and squirming my way through if he comes at me.
“What?” I hiss, turning to face him. I find attack mode generally defuses things with men. They are constantly surprised at the amount of venom I can spew from this little five-foot-tall body. “You want to be pissed off because I was sick too? Fuck you.”
He watches me shove clothes into my pack until it’s bulging so much, I can’t pull the top drawstring closed. Then he says, calm as can be, “Put your shit back. I’m sorry I didn’t take you to the doctor, OK? I was stressed that day.”
“You were drunk that day.”
“I’ve heard that so much lately, I want to puke.” My eyes start watering and I do not want to cry in front of this asshole, but those tears just come spilling out. “I hate you,” I snarl. “I hate you so much, I dream up ways to get you out of my life forever.”
He turns to leave.
“But I’ll watch Olivia because I love her more than anything. She’s the only thing I have left. So go to work and leave me alone.”
“Wish granted, Shannon,” he says with his back to me. “Wish granted.” A few seconds later the front door opens and closes and I’m right where I belong. Alone.
Olivia’s eyes are open and she’s staring up at me as she sways back and forth in her little swing. I stop it and lift her out, snuggling her to my chest. “Do you want to take a bath tonight, Olivia?”
She blinks at me.
“I never give baths, but I’m sick of seeing you in that swing. And I never get to pick your clothes, and your dad does not have the most fashionable taste.”
She doesn’t have an opinion on that either.
I grab the little blue plastic thing Jason uses to bath her and have a pang of guilt for being such a bitch to him. He does take care of her.
I fill the tub up with warm water, take Olivia’s clothes off, and place her inside it. She blesses me with a small smile and some bunched-up fists.
And it’s not like she’s a difficult baby or anything, but he’s managing. Maybe he did love Jill, but that’s a huge character flaw in my mind. What kind of man loves a drug addict? And it’s not like he met her before she was a druggie, fell in love, and decided to stick by her in bad times. No, that bitch was a two-timing whore. I know I should not speak of my sister like that, but it’s the truth. She was cheating on her last boyfriend with Jason, and Jason knew about that.
So what kind of guy picks a girl like her? And how come stupid girls like her always get picked by guys who want to marry them, and I get drug dealers and teachers with inappropriate sexual fantasies?
I breathe deeply as I stew in my anger and then Olivia changes everything when she smiles at me. “I’m sorry, baby. I’m not a very good aunt to you, am I?”
I wash Olivia with a tiny pink washcloth and then run the water again so I can rinse her off. By the time I’m done she’s so sleepy, she can barely keep her eyes open. So I dress her in a little peach-colored baby pajama set and place her in the crib in Jason’s room.
I walk back out into the living room and scream. “Jesus Christ, Mateo! What the fuck are you doing in here?”
He’s standing in my kitchen with a brown paper bag that smells better than it has a right to. “Feeding you. Since you left me with that guilt trip about using your money for bus fare and blah fucking blah about Danny motherfucking Alexander.”
“Get out,” I say, pointing to the patio slider. I want that food so bad, but no. He’s not going to barge his way into my life anymore. Fuck that.
“No,” he says, placing the bag on the counter and getting out two plates.
“Mateo.” I point up at him now, furious and still shaking from the shock. “Get—”
“No,” he growls louder. “Just calm the fuck down and tell me what happened.”
“I told you what happened.”
“About the part where you had to go to the ER, Shannon.”
“Like you care.” I fold my arms across my chest.
“Obviously,” he says with a heavy sigh. “I care. Or why the hell would I be here?”
“Who knows? You have some sick fascination with young girls? You want to fuck me. You don’t want Danny to fuck me.” His eye twitches at that remark and I get a little bolder. “You like power, or making teenagers suck your dick in a classroom. You—”
He takes two steps towards me and crosses the safe distance between us, making me move back. But he catches me by the arm and pulls me close to him. “You can say all those things because you’re mad, I don’t care. But if you believe all those things, we have a serious problem.”
“Why shouldn’t I believe those things?”
“Because I like you, Shannon. I’m here. I’m sorry. I said I was sorry. I’ll make it up to you. And you’re going to forgive me, because you know I’m telling the truth.”