The Wild Side

Page 31


"Don't do this. Don't act like this. You know I'll worry if you leave now."
The doorbell rang again, and we still just stared at each other.
She turned off her music, then looked at me, arms folded across her chest. "Go get that," she mouthed at me.
I went to answer it, feeling too agitated to deal even with the lovely, pleasant Lourdes.
I opened the door and tried to smile.
Lourdes smiled back, but it faltered as she studied me. She was a sleek, beautiful woman, with big dark eyes, and masses of wavy black hair. "Is this a bad time?"
I shook my head, then stood back and waved her in. "Can I get you a drink?" I asked, glancing at the stairs, wondering what Iris was going to do, how she was going to act, if she was going to leave. I found that I didn't care now what else she did, as long as she didn't leave. Lourdes could draw her own conclusions and think whatever she wanted about me.
I couldn't let Iris leave like this.
"No, thank you," said Lourdes. "Let me go play around in your backyard. I'd like to see how the light is going to work out there at this time of day. Actually, you should come with me."
I followed her out, leaving the back door open and trying to keep the bottom of the stairs in sight so Iris couldn't slip away without me knowing.
That didn't last long.
Lourdes called my name, I turned to look, and a few minutes passed while she set up.
"Excuse me," I said when I couldn't stand another minute, striding back to the house.
I heard the front door shutting as I stepped inside, and I broke into a sprint.
I caught her in the courtyard, both of her bags in tow.
She shot me one look and I started shaking my head.
"Don't," I told her, having to clench my fists to keep from grabbing the bags out of her hands, to keep from forcing her bodily back into the house. I had no right to stop her. "Why are you taking all your things?"
She shook her head, not quite looking at me. "It's not a big deal. Listen, I'll give you a call later."
I took a step closer, and she moved farther down the drive.
I followed. "You don't have a phone."
"I'll find one to borrow."
"You don't know my number."
"So tell it to me."
I rambled it off, followed by, "You need to write it down."
"No, I don't."
"Forget the call. Just come back inside."
"Stop," she said faintly, still moving away, still taking all of her things with her.
"Will you just come back tonight? Please?"
We were nearly to the end of the drive, then we were past it. She didn't stop, rolling her suitcase into the road, still wearing those ridiculous heels .
"When I tell you I need space right now, you're going to want to listen to me," she said, her tone brooking no argument. "I'll give you a call later."
She turned her back on me and began to walk more briskly, clearly in a hurry to get away.
It took me all of five seconds to decide that I needed to follow her.
Lourdes was in the entryway, looking concerned, when I strode back inside. "I think we should do this later," she said, before I could so much as make up an excuse. "I can tell this is a bad time."
"It is, sorry. Something…unexpected came up."
She waved that off. "No worries. We'll reschedule when you have time."
I agreed and didn't even see her out.
I had no time to waste.
I turned out of the neighborhood, driving my black Prius, just as she got into a cab.
I followed. I was getting better at it, though it was odd to try it in the full light of day. I kept wanting to duck, but I could see the back of her blonde head, and it never turned around, staying downturned the entire drive.
The taxi led me to one of the worst neighborhoods in town. It was close to UNLV. I could recall reading something, years ago, where they'd made the housing around the university cheaper, but hadn't limited eligibility for it to students, the end result being students living two doors down from drug dealers, frat houses next to illegal cathouses, and other fun scenarios.
It made for an interesting off campus life for the students, but I supposed it was all par for the course at the school of broken dreams.
I idled at the curb a few houses away and watched her get out of the taxi. This was really the worst-case scenario. When I was fretting about where she lived (which I had plenty) this was just what I worried about.
She entered the downstairs unit of a tiny duplex parked between what had to be a large frat house, and just from the general condition of it and the people loitering in the yard, what I would have bet money was a crack house.
I felt helpless. I couldn't stand the thought of her being in a place this unsafe, though she clearly lived here.
I couldn't even call her, and as much as I wanted to follow her to her front door, she'd been very clear about needing her space.
I also couldn't shake the look she'd given me before she left.
My mind had been stuck on that look, obsessed with deciphering it, for the entire drive over. It hadn't been anger, or even strictly hurt, though there had been some of that mixed in.

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