I started my walk, turning on the street corner, and jogging to the nearest park. At the stop light, a car cruised next to me, slowly. There was no point in checking to see who was in the car.
“This conversation isn’t over, Silvia.”
The nerve he had to say that ticked me off. “The conversation is over, Dakota. I’ve made up my mind. Let me enjoy my walk.”
“Hear me out,” Dakota pleaded. “If I had started this relationship for some kind of selfish reason, like for sex or something, then I could understand this much anger. But I didn’t lure you in because of some stupid carnal desire. I wanted answers about my sister.”
I didn’t say anything. I glared at him, huffing as I picked up my step.
“Please listen to me, Silvia.” He stuck his arm out of the car. “I didn’t lie when I said that I love you the first time, or the other times after.”
“When exactly did the lies stop, Dakota? Where did the truth start to come out?”
Massaging his jaw, Dakota pondered on my answer. “I knew when you told me Evelyn was kicking you out and you were moving back to Maine. It was then when I realized that I cared about you far more than I was letting on.”
I was wrong about being kicked out. My grandma was back in town and Hunter and I went to her place for the weekend. Dakota had gone out drinking that night, thinking that he’d never see me again. When Ronnie drove me to his house, I saw Dakota begging Dion to take him to Maine, slurring each of his words. He was a complete mess that night.
“Did you stop taking orders after that point?”
He ducked his head and scratched his hair, purposely not meeting my gaze. “No, I didn’t stop then. I thought that the feeling would pass. That it was just a side effect of the job. When I first started taking orders, I didn’t think I would—”
“Hurt me?” I filled in, but shook his head. I stopped walking and he stopped driving, getting closer to the curb. “Then what? What didn’t you think would happen?”
“You’re gonna laugh.”
“Unlikely,” I puffed. Nothing about this ordeal seemed humorous to me.
“I didn’t think that I would get feelings for you. The whole point was to get close enough to get information, but not close enough to love you. I don’t know how or when it happened, but when it started, I couldn’t stop it. I looked forward to seeing you at school and hopefully outside of school. But the longer I did the job, the more awful I felt. If you think that I had any enjoyment in hurting you—for even the slightest of seconds—then you’re wrong Silvia. I went through hell, hating myself more than anything else. The person behind the orders saw that and practically threatened me to go on or they’d find a way to make you hate me.”
“You think they might’ve done the whole last day of school thing as well?”
“No, there’s no way they could’ve done that. You can’t have two different operations going on in Segg. You get one person and that’s it. I have another theory that they got Finn to persuade someone into making that video. Out of everyone at Crescent High, Finn would have to choose someone that he knew hated me enough to do that and wanted you as far away from me as possible.”
Dakota flickered his eyes over to a couple walking by with a baby stroller then back at me. “I think we should have the rest of this conversation in the car.”
Dakota got out of the car and opened the door for me. I slid into the passenger’s seat. Before he closed the door, Dakota lowered his head down to my eye level, moving in to kiss my cheek, but I pushed his face away.
“I don’t forgive you yet.” I said and closed the door myself. More than once, I had defended him whenever someone brought his name up, questioning his intentions. It sucked knowing that everyone’s assumptions were right.
Dakota got into the driver’s seat and put the keys into the ignition. “Have you at least tried to see it from my perspective?” The car roared to life, echoing into the air. A pedestrian on the sidewalk flinched at the sound. “As an example, let’s say what happened to Diana happened to Lenard. If he left you with a whole bunch of questions after his death, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get answers?”
“I suppose I would be interested in getting some closure.” I said. “But I wouldn’t have wanted to hurt someone during my search for answers. That’s not what Lenard would want me to do for him. He’d want me to be happy, not hung up on the unknown.”
Drawing in his lip between his teeth, he gnawed on it softly while letting my words sink in. It almost as if my words hadn’t latched on to him yet. He kept talking like he wasn’t wrong for what he did. I accepted the fact that he had a reason for what he had done, but I needed him to also accept that I had the right to be angry. I had the right to be infuriated with him and not trust him.
Thinking over his example, I understood the drive behind his actions and why he did what he did. Diana’s suicide was only a few months ago. The one-year anniversary would be this summer. He had a lot of open wounds and unresolved problems when we first met, floating around in his head. While seeking answers, he stumbled upon the opportunity to learn the truth.
A lot of people would’ve done what he did for their loved ones. To a certain extent, I would’ve done anything in the world to gain closure if Lenard had left this Earth the same way Diana had.
“Do you know what I wish you would’ve done?” I spoke up.
“No, I don’t. What is it?”
“I wish you would’ve, at some point, admitted what you were doing early on. I could’ve helped you.”
“You’re saying that you’d pretend to date me just so I could get answers about Diana?” He inquired and I nodded my head. This, surprisingly, made him laugh. “I don’t believe you. There’s no way you would’ve continued to speak to me if you knew.”
“You don’t know that for a fact.”
“C’mon. You can’t be serious...” he trailed off. “Would you be able to do that now?”
"No,” I stated firmly. “I’m sorry, but right now isn’t the best time to ask me to fake date you. Less than fifteen minutes ago, you admitted that you started this entire relationship off of a lie. There’s way too many mixed emotions going on in my head to promise you that I’d be able to pretend to be with you. Half of me hates you and the other half of me is still stupidly in love with you.”
His lips curled. “You love me.”
“Yes, I do love you.”
He brought his hand up to my face, cupping my cheek. “I love you, too.”
“I wish I didn’t, but I do.” I added.
His smile dropped. “That’s not what you’re supposed to say afterwards.”
I took his hand into mine and gently squeezed them. “I think we’re at two different points of our life right now--”
“Stop right there. That’s what people say right before breaking up.”
“Well we’re not necessarily official.”
“We were earlier this week.”
“Listen for a second. After you broke it off the first time, I didn’t see it, but I do now. You want to learn more about your sister—and I respect that. But I have to figure out what’s going on in my own life before I can promise you a future. I’m not happy, and I don’t know how long I’ve been unhappy in life. I have to learn a way to cope with my own problems before I can continue whatever this is between us.”
“I still want this to work. We can move past this together, Silvia. I know we can.”
“I know we can, too. But only if we take some more time apart.” I sighed a heavy breath. “It’s not easy for me to say this, but I need you to respect my decision to take some time for myself. I have to reevaluate every second I spent with you, going over the memories we’ve shared to see where the truth really started.”
“You don’t have to do that. We can make new memories. Ones that start right now, right here.” He clicked on his seat belt and gripped the steering wheel. “Give me the name of any place you want to go and I’ll drive there.”
I reached for the keys and turned the car off. “I appreciate that offer, but it’s not a good idea. I’d only be dragging you along if I lied to you and said we could get back together at this very moment.”
“Then lie to me.” He begged. “Lie to me and say we’re going to be okay. That this is only a bump in the road and that we can get past this.”
I shook my head. “I can’t. I’m a bad liar.”
Reaching for the handle, I went to open the door, but his voice stopped me before I could leave. “Silvia, at least tell me there’s a chance.”
I sat back in my seat and leaned forward, planting a soft kiss on his cheek. “There’s always been a chance.”
Exiting the car, I made it back my house. Dakota’s car was still on the side of the street when I turned the corner. It hadn’t moved an inch. I really hoped he didn’t stay long.
There was an undeniable tension building up in my shoulders, rising with each breath I took. The steps up to my bedroom felt like a mile away. Throwing myself on the bed, I let out a sigh that was pent up inside of me.