“Oh, he’s working. He’s working for Phil, that’s where he’s working at. And that’s the only job he’s got as far as I know.”
“Dealing, Shannon. Like me, only he does the risky stuff. Runs to Tijuana and shit to pick up coke. That’s why he’s gone all night sometimes.”
I almost fall over. “He’s a drug runner for Phil?”
“How do you manage to stay so clueless?” Danny is looking at me like I’m a moron now. And I am. How didn’t I know this? Mateo, that little part of my brain that makes sense says. Mateo is the only thing that’s been on my mind.
“Didn’t Mateo mention it?”
“Why would Mateo know about Jason?”
Danny has to blink several times at my apparent ignorance. “Are you fucking with me right now?”
“I mean, I know they know each other from high school and stuff.”
“Did Mateo tell you that?”
“No, we never talk about Jason. Not really. Mateo asks about him casually, like if Jason’s going to work at night and stuff, so Mateo knows he can bring me dinner.”
Danny just stares at me. And then he laughs. And laughs, and laughs, and laughs.
“What?” I demand. “What’s so funny?”
“Your boyfriend’s a very talented liar, Shannon. I wanted to say something earlier, but it’s none of my business, right? And you’d just assume I was making a move on you and then hate me afterward. But wow, I thought you had more street cred than this. The guy is a fucking narc. He’s busted at least three major dealers in the past year alone. He works for the fucking Anaheim Task Force as an informant.”
“How the hell do you know this? I mean, it’s not like narcs go around announcing it.”
Danny huffs out a long breath of air. “Oh, we all know it. He’s had a long history. What the fuck do you think happened to my mom?”
“Your mom? What?”
“He busted her, Shannon. Right after high school. He was fucking her for drugs and then one day he decided to quit and go to college, and when she said she wasn’t interested in his straight-edge lifestyle and dumped him, he turned her in. And do you know what he told me, Shannon? Do you know what he had the nerve to tell me as they were handcuffing my mom and taking her off to jail?”
I swallow hard and shake my head.
“He said, ‘Hey, kid, it’s for your own good.’ I was eight years old, Shannon. Eight fucking years old. And I don’t care how bad your fucking mother is, when you’re eight years old, you love her no matter what.”
“That really sucks, Danny. But Mateo is an astronomer now. He’s been working on his PhD all semester. I saw his dissertation defense last week. That’s what he does. He’s not a fucking narc.”
“Whatever,” Danny says. “I don’t know for sure that he’s behind all those busts, but he’s got a history of it. And I might not have a PhD, but I’m not stupid. I know how to draw a conclusion.”
I don’t know what to say. I walk over to the steps of a nearby building and take a seat before I pass out.
Danny comes and sits down next to me “Sorry, OK? I didn’t want to be the one to tell you all this. I just figured you were smart enough to see through him. He’s a liar, Shannon. A very gifted liar. And fucking weird, don’t you think?”
Every moment we’ve had together runs through my mind. Weird. He could be. But I signed up for all of it too, so what does that say about me?
“He’s gone tonight, right?”
“Well, come over then. Just be a normal kid for once. I’m having a party to celebrate and I consider you a good friend. You should be there. We’re graduating, Shannon. You worked your ass off this semester to make it happen. Let go for once and forget what that weird fuck has to say about it. I mean, really. Do you think he’s gonna stick around now that he’s finished with school? Come over and have fun with me. And I’m not making a move on you, OK? I’ve got my eye on someone and we’ve been fucking around for a few weeks. That’s not what I’m after.”
I sit and think for a few seconds. Maybe he’s right. I’m way too dependent on Mateo for things. So I look up at Danny and say, “OK.”
“Yeah?” He smiles.
“Sure. I need a good high-school party, to be honest.”
“Come by around nine then.” He stands up, smiling with his accomplishment of breaking down my walls. “Things will be just getting started by then.”
He walks off, saying hi to other kids as he makes his way across campus. I just sit there and watch him disappear, thinking about what an idiot I am.
Jason, for one. That’s probably all true. He’s been lying to me.
But so has Mateo, at least a little, even if it’s simply by not explaining. He never mentioned this history with Danny’s family. But no wonder he wanted me to stay away from Danny. He can’t be a narc, though. He’s way too busy for that kind of secret life.
He has a secret life with me though. And I have one with him. And Jason has one with Phil and the babysitter. So it appears that it’s not so hard to have a secret life.
I guess anything is possible. But I’m not throwing away anything with Mateo over his past with Danny’s family. I love him way too much to do that.
I wish I didn’t. Because Danny’s right about one thing. Mateo is leaving Anaheim in two days and I’m not.
When I get home Danny was right. There’s a note on the table in Jason’s scratchy handwriting saying that Olivia is staying at the sitter’s.
Why, though? Why tonight when he’s never done this before? It just bugs me. And the whole secret relationship with the babysitter. Why is it a secret?
I sit down on the couch, not used to the quiet and freedom to be here and not have Olivia’s demands be the first thing on my mind. I turn the TV on to make background noise, and still, I’m unsettled.
I don’t think Mateo is cheating or anything stupid like that. But I just got a lot of information I didn’t necessarily want. It’s no big deal if he decided to go to LA today. Or if he got back early and didn’t let me know. We don’t have one of those report-back-to-me relationships. We hardly ever talk when we don’t have plans. But we’ve had plans every day but Sunday for the past four months, so I never had to worry about where he was.
I get out my phone and press his contact button. It rings three times before he picks up, but the relief I feel washes over me like an ocean. “Hey,” he says. “What’s up? Have a good last day?”
“Yeah,” I lie. I’m just happy to hear him. “What are you doing?”
“Just work,” he says casually. “Cleaning out my office and turning things in.”
“So you’re still in LA?”
“Yup. I’m gonna stay here tonight. Got a hotel down the road.”
“Oh, that sucks. I miss you.”
“I miss you too,” he growls. “But I’ll make it up to you tomorrow. You have plans tonight?”
The first part of that response started out normal. But there’s something in the last part that sets me on edge. “Why would I have plans?” I ask. “I have Olivia.”