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Tia sat on her bed, staring down at the framed portrait of Angel in her hands. Funny. She'd always thought his smile was wider than that. And that his eyes drooped more at the corners. Had she forgotten what he looked like already? Or was it that the photo simply didn't do justice to the live, in-the-flesh version of him?
"Give it back! Give it back! It's mi-ine'" Tomás's voice sliced through the wall and pierced Tia's brain like a Ginsu knife. Time for her brothers' daily battle over the Game Boy. Tia lay down on the bed and placed a pillow over her exposed ear, never taking her eyes off Angel.
Should she tell him about what happened at the party? Maybe confessing the whole thing to him would ease her conscience. At the very least she needed to open up about how left out she'd been feeling.
"No fair! I was playing this first!"
"But it's mine!"
"You weren't even here. You were downstairs watching TV!"
"I don't care! It's mine! Give it back!"
"All right. That's it," Tia muttered. She leaped off the bed and ran next door to her brothers' room.
"How much sugar did you guys eat today?" she hollered from the doorway. "Do you even know how to be quiet? Or do you just think you're the only ones on this block with eardrums!"
Tomás and Miguel froze in midargument, their dark brown eyes wide as golf balls. Just then Tia's mother rounded the corner of the hallway and frowned at all three of them.
"Boys, no more fighting," she ordered. "I want you two to go downstairs and settle this quietly." The boys mutely obeyed. As soon as they trudged past, Mrs. Ramirez turned toward Tia and laid a hand on her shoulder."Well, that outburst wasn't like you, Tia. What's wrong?"
Tia raked her fingers into her thick brown hair, grasping her forehead tightly. A sharp pain was throbbing inside her skull. "Nothing," she said. Her mother wasn't exactly the type of person who would understand random party hookups. Tia was pretty sure her mom thought she and Angel were still in the peck-on-the-cheek phase.
"Are you sure?" her mother asked.
"Yes," Tia said evenly. Then she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. "I just need to be left alone for a minute. Would it be all right if I borrowed the van? I need to sit somewhere quiet and think for a while."
Her mother nodded slowly, wiping her hands on the dish towel she seemed to almost constantly be carrying. "All right. But don't be out too 1ong, okay?"
Tia headed into the hall and grabbed the keys from their usual spot on the table by the door. Free at last! It was just too impossible to have a productive train of thought in this house.
She started up the minivan and let it roar loudly. Then she backed out of the driveway and headed down the street.
The quiet hum of the engine helped her relax, and the brilliant sunshine seemed to be illuminating everything just for her. Tia turned onto the main strip, easily blending into the sparse Sunday traffic.
Sunday. When Angel was here, they'd often meet up at House of Java and talk about the weekend's events. There was nothing more cozy and comfortable than drowning in Angel's eyes . . . and a huge cup of latte. Tia hadn't even realized she was driving toward HOJ until it loomed into view. Some habits must die hard.
No sense stopping, though. She didn't feel like having coffee alone, and being there would only make her feel more miserable. Instead she should find someplace that didn't remind her of Angel.
But where? As she headed down the avenue, every single place held some sort of memory for her. The restaurants. The movie theater. The ice cream parlor and minigolf course. After three years of dating, there was really no place they hadn't visited at least once together.
Without thinking, she rounded a corner and drove down several blocks before turning onto a tree-lined street--a street as familiar to her as her own. Angel's street.
Tia parked the van across the road from his house. For a long moment she sat staring at his bedroom. Fragments of memories flashed past her, like a vivid parade of time. Angel laughing. Angel stroking her hair. Angel surprising her with flowers.
"God, what's wrong with me?" she cried, the van's cramped interior absorbing the sound of her voice.
How could she have even considered being with someone else? After everything she and Angel had been through and meant to each other? What did that say about her? About them?
Covering her face with her hands, Tia slumped over the steering wheel and cried. She felt beyond guilty. And the thing was, Angel was probably the only person in the world who could lift her spirits.
Maybe she should just go back home and call him. Then again, he knew her so well, he'd probably be able to tell something awful was up just by the sound of her voice. Should she risk it?
Tia straightened up and restarted the engine. In any case, she probably should head back. The drive wasn't exactly making her feel better.
After one last look at Angel's house, she pulled away from the curb and headed off. In a way, it seemed fitting she should be driving around aimlessly. Since Angel left, all she seemed to be doing was going around in circles.