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“Has it worked out? Giving Gavin another chance?”

“Oh, definitely. We have a ways to go. I have to trust he won’t leave again. But we’re working through it.”

Sabrina smiled and stood up. “That all sounds very promising.” She fingered the card. “Do you think you’ll be ready to go when they discharge you?”

I flooded with relief. I had passed. “Definitely. I just need to catch up on school.”

“I’m sure you’ll do well. Good luck, Corabelle.” She shook my hand again, then left the room.

I flung back the covers, too antsy to stay in bed. I had done it. I would be free soon. I frowned at the strange heavy feeling in my chest when I stood up, but it didn’t matter. I could tell I was better. This was just some lingering issue. Soon I would be home.

Sunlight poured through the windows as I lifted the blinds and looked out over the city. I could text Gavin to come over and bring me some clothes. By Monday I’d be back at school like none of this ever happened.

I pressed my head against the glass, reveling in the coolness on my face. Everything was going to be perfect from now on.

9: Gavin

My phone buzzed for the third time in a half hour as I dropped the hood of a Tahoe into place and wiped my hands on a shop towel. I glanced at the screen to make sure it wasn’t Corabelle. She had written earlier asking me to bring her some clothes.

Nope, still Rosa, a prostitute I used to visit in Mexico.

I didn’t know what she wanted, but I quit seeing her completely once Corabelle came back. My little vice of only sleeping with paid women was over and done.

But three calls in a short period made me wonder what might be going on with her. The last time I left her apartment in Tijuana, I’d gotten into a fight with a man outside her building and taken his gun. She lived in a tough neighborhood, and “Sideburns” might be hanging around looking for me. I hoped that this hadn’t somehow come back to involve her.

I tossed the keys to Mario and said, “I think I need to answer this,” and headed out the back door. I punched the call button and braced myself for something tough.

“Hey, Rosa.”

I got silence at first, then finally she said, “Gavinito.”

“I’m not used to you calling me.”

“I — I must speak with you now.” Her voice was shaky, and I pictured that asshole from her street standing behind her with a knife at her throat.

“Are you okay? Is someone trying to hurt you?”

“No. No hurt. I have problem. Big problem. I must see you.”

I leaned against the bricks of the back wall of the garage. “Rosa, I can’t come anymore. I have a girlfriend now. She wouldn’t like it.”

The line went silent again.

“I’m sorry, Rosa. Are you all right? Do you need money?” I didn’t have much of anything to give her, but I guess I could try. She’d been there for me on the worst night of my life, right after my illegal vasectomy, lost and in pain.

“That is not it. I — I don’t know what to say. How to say it.”

“Are you in some sort of trouble?”

“I have a little boy. He is three.”

That was a surprise. “Okay…I guess you keep him hidden. I never saw him.”

Her voice wavered. “He lives with my cousin Letty.”

Why was she telling me this? “What did you need me to do, Rosa?”

“They have trouble. My cousin’s husband leave her.”

I waited her out, still not sure how this involved me.

“I need to get my boy.”

“Did you want me to take you there?”

I heard her intake a breath, as if she had not thought of it. “Yes, yes! That is good idea.”

“I don’t have a car, but I could borrow one.”

“My brother has a car.”

Why wasn’t her brother taking her then? “Rosa, what’s going on? Why are you asking me all this? Don’t you have family? Some friends there?”

The line went silent for a moment. I looked out over the street, tapping my boot. I should try to listen to her, to understand, but she was part of my past. I wanted to leave her behind.

“Gavin, the little boy is yours.”

The world went gray, and I couldn’t respond. This was impossible. I was snipped. She was confused. I squeezed the back of my neck in irritation as I realized something was really off.

“Rosa, I can’t have babies anymore. I got—” I wasn’t sure if she would know the word. “I got a vasectomy. Do you know what that means?”

“Yes, you got it the day we met. I remember.”

“So, the boy can’t be mine.”

“But he is. He cannot be any other.”

“Rosa, you know I like you. But in your…your line of work, couldn’t he belong to anyone? Besides, he’s three years old. Why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

Bud stuck his head out the back door. “Think you can take one more belt job today?”

I froze, wondering if he’d heard anything. He stared at me with a question on his face, so I glanced at my watch and nodded. “Rosa, I have to get back to work. I’m sorry. I wish I could help you. Just be safe, okay?”

I hung up the call, anger rising up. What sort of idiot did she take me for? I’d seen her dozens of times in the last three years. She never mentioned any son. No kid was ever around, or any toys, or anything to indicate she’d been pregnant. Ha, I’d never even seen her pregnant. The whole thing was a lie!

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