I sat in my car - in the dark. I stared out at the other cars in the parking lot. It had already been an hour and I still couldn't decide if I should go in or leave. I was torn between the soccer game and my grandma's retirement party and just staying at home. I had eventually left my apartment and I had driven to my destination and here I continued to sit in the parking lot an hour later.
People started to come out, go to their cars and drive home. I had come here, I might as well get out before I lost the opportunity completely. I opened the car door and got out. I had to park far away since I arrived late and the parking lot was already crowded. I crossed the parking lot until I stood to the side of the main entrance where everyone was coming out.
The crowds died away until there was only an occasional person or small group of people coming out.
Mateo came out and immediately stopped when he saw me. He was alone so I could enact my plan. He approached until he stood directly in front of me.
"You came," he said with a tentative smile. "You should have come in."
"I just got here," I lied.
"I see," he said. "I'll go in and get Alex and we can go out to dinner."
"Wait," I said before he could leave. "I've heard...this is a sensitive topic and probably none of my business, but Alex brought it up first so...I'm just going to say it. He's frustrated that you haven't slept together yet."
Mateo froze. His jaw clenched tight, but he didn't say anything.
"You've been dating each other for awhile now and I know you have a roommate and he lives with his mother. He actually asked if the two of you could borrow my apartment, but I'm not really comfortable with that."
"Neither am I," Mateo said.
"So I think you should take him to a hot-"
What was I doing? I was about to betray my friend. I was about to hurt him in a worse way than Mateo ever could. Alex and I had been best friends since we were two. How could I use his greatest pain against him like this? How had I ever thought this was okay? My obsession with breaking them up had become so great that I didn't consider how I personally was hurting Alex.
I turned to walk away - to go back to my car and just leave - but Mateo's hand gripped my arm and spun me back around.
His face was red in anger. His brown eyes burned. "Were you seriously just going to suggest I take him to a hotel?" His voice was dangerous.
I shook my head. My fingers began to ever so slightly tremble. I had to get away from everyone. A panic attack was coming on. What had I done? How could Alex ever forgive me for this?
Mateo shoved me hard and I stumbled a few steps back, but I didn't try to fight back or justify myself. I had been wrong. So very, very wrong.
"You know that is where Jason took him." Mateo took a step towards me, his hands balled tightly into fists. He was going to hit me. And I deserved it. He brought his arm back quickly to hit me, but it stopped there in the air. "Our first time will be special," he said. "I will never let our first time happen in a hotel." His arm dropped back by his side, but he took another step towards me.
My heart beat erratically against my chest. It hurt. It was painful. My stomach rolled with the sudden nausea.
"I thought you were a jerk," Mateo said. "But Alex always believed in you and this is what you are going to do to him? This?"
I shook my head, but my throat constricted and I couldn't talk. I pinched my eyes closed quickly so Mateo wouldn't be able to see the sudden tears. The trembling in my fingers grew worse. My knees were suddenly weak. It was becoming difficult to breathe, but I wasn't wheezing or gasping for breath yet. I had to get away.
Mateo shoved me again. I stumbled back. A cold sweat began to bead on my brow and down my back.
I opened my eyes strangely relieved to hear Chet's voice. He stood there between me and Mateo. His back was towards me as if to defend me from his friend. But if this was the case, he was wrong. I deserved all of Mateo's hate and all of Alex's hate. I probably just lost my best friend and when Trevon found out, I would lose him too. The only people I would have left in my life would be my family who didn't really care about me. Goosebumps formed all along my body as my heart beat even faster.
"Move, Chet," Mateo said.
"No," Chet said. "I don't know what is going on, but what you are about to do isn't the answer."
"You're right," Mateo said. "You have no idea what is going on. Now move."
I couldn't breathe. I gasped. Chet looked at me, noted the over exaggeration of the rise and fall of my chest. He placed a warm hand on my sternum and applied a slight pressure. It helped. I didn't know why it helped, but it did. My heart still beat crazily in my chest, my fingers still trembled, my stomach still churned and the sweat was still on my back, but for a brief moment, I felt like I could breathe.
Mateo hadn't noticed. He took a step forward, but Chet stopped him with his other hand. "Mateo," he said calmly, "Alex is waiting for you. He needs you. Are you really going to make him wait?"
Mateo gave me another mean look that burned before he spun around and stomped off back inside the stadium.
Chet turned to fully look at me. There wasn't any judgement in his eyes only worry. But then again, he didn't know what I had almost done.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
I opened my mouth to say I was fine, but my breath left me and my throat tightened. I couldn't speak. Instead, I turned away from him and walked across the parking lot to my car. I heard his footsteps on the pavement as he followed me.
The walk and the silence allowed my breathing to calm. My stomach stopped turning so violently. My heart still beat fast, but it wasn't quite as painful and my trembling fingers had calmed significantly.
"I'm okay," I said to Chet without looking at him when we reached the back of my car. "You can leave."
My phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket. Everything inside me dropped when I saw who was calling. Everything that had just calmed was suddenly back tenfold.
I answered with a trembling finger and brought the phone up to my ear.
"Hello," I said not having any strength to sound cheerful.
"Where were you?" my mother's harsh voice met my numb ear. The constriction was back in my throat. "Do you know how embarrassed I was? People asked about you. You were expected to be here." She paused, but I couldn't speak. I leaned against the car so my legs wouldn't give out on me. I was beginning to get dizzy. It was suddenly difficult to see.
"What use are you if you can't even show up to your grandmother's retirement party? You need to be at the top and you can't let people underneath you use you and take advantage of you. I've told you this many times. You need to make your face known to those in this company and to those who can help you get ahead in life. You can't afford to skip out on these events. Not to mention the embarrassment we all felt at your absence. People will think you don't care about your grandmother, about your family or this business."
I moved the phone away from my mouth and gasped. It was painful to breathe.
"You disgust me. Do you know how this makes me look? Do you know how tentative yours and my positions are in this family? You are my greatest mistake. You never should have been born." There was a click as she hung up.
I gasped again. It hurt. Everything hurt. I almost collapsed, but steadied myself with the car. I gasped/wheezed again. There wasn't enough air in my lungs. My vision was blurry. My entire body trembled now. My heart tore in my chest as the unsteady beats pounded against my ribs. I had to get inside my car. I had to get inside and not let anyone see me like this. I unlocked my car and got in wheezing with every movement. I wasn't the only one who got in my car though.