I took Esmeralda downstairs. She’d stopped pulling and tugging and was just walking with me, sort of limp. She was still crying and whimpering to herself in Spanish. I tried to ignore her. I tried not to think about what Jolene was doing to her father. I tried to stay cold.
“I need two things from you: I need money and booze” I said as we walked downstairs.
“I don’t know where the money is” she pleaded.
“Bullshit” I said, tightening my grip around her arm. I pushed the gun into her side. I felt her whole body shake and tighten up. “Please,” I looked into her eyes, “Please tell me where the fucking money is.”
“Honestly, I don’t know!”
I dug the gun in a little deeper. I knew she didn’t know though. Just looking at her and that whole situation, I knew that she wouldn’t die for that fat old bastard upstairs.
“I don’t know! He doesn’t trust me!”
She started crying again. I pulled the gun out of her side. She went limp and put her head in her hands. I wanted to console her.
“Come on” I said, walking downstairs towards the kitchen. She sniffed and walked after me. I wanted to just let her go.
I walked into the kitchen and turned the light on. The whole room lit up so bright. The strip lighting that stretched across the ceiling was sterilizing. I could feel it scrubbing my skin clean.
“Jesus! Have you got some candles or something? This light is horrible.”
“What?” she said, looking at me, still terrified.
“Candles, a lamp with a nice shade, anything, Jesus, just do something about this light.”
She went to a drawer and started rummaging around. As I looked around the kitchen and let the light sink into my eyes, I looked at her looking through the drawer. It occurred to me that she could be looking for a gun. I mean, it wasn’t likely, but I wasn’t about to get myself shot. Not under this light. I held my gun up and pointed it at the back of her head. I picked my spot just as her neck faded into her skull. I watched the little marker on the end of the barrel tremble. I wrapped my finger around the trigger. I could feel my heart thumping. I could hear the footsteps of that coke running its final lap around my body.
She turned around holding two candles and a lighter. She shrieked and dropped them onto the floor. I jumped a little but dropped the gun to my side. I breathed out slowly. I felt like an asshole.
“I’m sorry. I’m…I’m sorry. I just thought maybe you were going for a gun or something.”
She was crying again. Her make-up was all but gone. She bent down to pick up the candles, watching me all the way down.
“I’m sorry. Honestly. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
As soon as I heard myself say that, I wondered what the fuck I was doing. It became obvious to me that I wasn’t cut out for this.
“It’s okay” she said. But I knew it wasn’t.
She lit the candles and I turned out the lights from above. The kitchen looked much better. There were two warm glows coming from each side of the worktop, reaching out to each corner. I felt my heart rate slow a little. She stood looking at me, sniffing, shuffling from side to side.
“Sit down, please.” I said, wiping my nose, avoiding her eyes. I couldn’t look at them.
“Just, I don’t know, one of those seats. Just sit down will you? Please.”
She sat down quickly. She kept staring at the gun and I. I moved the gun behind my leg.
We sat quietly for a minute, thawing in candlelight. She was probably thinking of how to save herself. She couldn’t know that I was thinking the same thing.
“Why are you here?” she asked after a minute or so.
I was just about to say that I didn’t know when I heard Jolene shout something at her daddy through the ceiling. We both looked up. She sounded really angry, but completely in control. I looked back at her step-mother. Neither of us said anything. We both knew that this had nothing to do with us. It was just the way things had to be. We were like the kids in the nasty break-up.
I sat down opposite her, sitting the gun on the worktop. I ran my hands through my hair and back down my face. I looked around the room again.
“Do you have anything to drink?” I asked her, suddenly remembering why we were in the kitchen.
“We have wine and tequila” she said, wiping her nose, looking back at the gun.
“Tequila, please.” I sat my head in my hands and exhaled. “It’s been that kind of night.”
She nodded, and started to cry again.