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She turns around on her heel and pushes my chest with all her might. “She picked you, pendejo. She didn’t pick some other guy. You’re so dense I can’t believe you actually have a brain inside that head of yours.”

“Thanks.”

What am I supposed to do, be Monika’s boy toy until she gets sick of me and moves on to another guy, someone more worthy of her, to make her feel something?

“Go back home, Vic. That’s where you belong, right?”

“No.” I follow her up to the apartment. “I don’t belong in Fremont.”

“Could’ve fooled me.”

“I can’t have Monika in my bed. Trey dated her.”

Isa puts her head in her hands. “Yet you did have her in your bed. Get it through your thick skull, Vic.” She raises her head. “Trey might have dated her, but he’s not with her now. What is she supposed to do, mourn the rest of her life?”

“No. I’ll figure this shit out on my own,” I say.

“Why? You’re not alone, Vic, so stop acting like you are.”

Now I know how Monika feels. Ever since Trey died, I’ve felt completely alone. The only time I haven’t was when I was with Monika, whether we were arguing or kissing or just standing next to each other working.

As I lie on the couch an hour later and stare at Isa’s ceiling, my cousin walks in the room wearing an oversized T-shirt that she wears to bed.

“I went out with Bernie tonight.”

“Wow. Really?”

“Yeah.” She takes a deep breath and sits next to me. “He wants this place to work, you know.”

At first I don’t know what she’s talking about, but then her words sink in. “Enrique’s Auto Body?”

“Yeah. I know you’ve always wanted to customize the cars that come in here, some of the old Mustangs or Caddies. Enrique was thinkin’ about it. I never showed you the back warehouse. He got all the metalworking equipment and was about to expand when he died.”

“You never told me.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t tell people a lot of things. I kind of hold things in. Like you, cuz. Bernie has money. He wants to invest in this place and make it something big. He also wants to marry me.”

“Marry you? What did you say?”

“What do you think I said? I told him to fuck off. He took that as a yes.”

“You love him, don’t you?”

She nods as tears stain her eyes. “I’m scared of losing him, because everyone I love is ripped from my life.” She nervously twirls her hair in her fingers. “I know you probably want to go to college and get some fancy degree, but maybe you could try this with us.” She clears her throat as her voice quivers. “I don’t want to lose this place, Vic. You can even go back to school and work here on weekends until you graduate.”

I don’t tell her the truth, that I probably wasn’t going to college anyways. I’m not good enough or smart enough. But this—it’s an opportunity to actually do something I’m good at.

“You shouldn’t believe in me that much,” I tell her. “Whatever I do, I end up ruining.”

“I know.” She pats my leg. “But it’s time to turn things around, because you’re seriously starting to piss me off. Fix your life, Vic. Then you and Bernie can help me fix mine.”

“What if I can’t fix mine?”

She flashes me one of her signature grins. “Then you’re more of an idiot than I thought.”

Chapter Forty-eight

MONIKA

“What are you thinking, Monika? Share with us.”

I’m sitting in Dr. Singer’s office, watching as my mom wipes tears away with a tissue. My parents took me out of school when they realized I was out late last night. I didn’t tell them where I was.

Mom just got done telling the therapist that she worries about me. My dad puts a comforting arm around my mom and looks at me as if I’m fragile and will break any minute.

“I’m fine,” I tell them, wanting their attention focused on anything else but me. “Really.”

Dr. Singer rubs his chin, contemplating my words in his intellectual brain. “‘Fine’ is such a nondescript, vague word, Monika. Can you elaborate?”

“No.”

“You know we’re always here for you,” Dad chimes in.

“I know.”

“You don’t express yourself, Monika,” Mom says, her black shiny hair reflecting the light of Dr. Singer’s lamp. “If we don’t know how you’re doing, we feel lost. And then you sneak out late and won’t tell us where you’ve been. It’s concerning, especially with your condition.”

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