“Are you sure?” She pulls her brows in and puckers her mouth a little. I reach out for one of her hands, but she’s too busy wringing them in nervousness to notice.
“Lena, it’s fine. She’s probably already left anyway. Bruce doesn’t see everything.”
That’s sort of a lie.
I’ve lived here my entire life, and I’ve never slipped out without Bruce seeing me. Even that time when there was a lobby full of moving boxes that I couldn’t even see over, and I tried to sneak out the front to go to the pharmacy next door to buy some ice cream because Mom and Dad were fighting, and ice cream alone felt like the better alternative than listening to them anymore.
But I can’t tell Lena that, because I really don’t want to go up without her.
“Besides,” I say. “I’m just dropping it inside, then we can bail.”
At least I hope. Best case scenario is that Mom is in a hurry and won’t have time to grill me about the last few weeks. That she won’t plunk down the progress reports they’ve undoubtedly been sending from school about the projects I’ve missed.
Lena tilts her head to the side as the doors start to close. I reach out and hold them open.
“Gabe,” she asks sweetly.
“Are you hoping to use me as a buffer?” She flashes the first smile since the entire mood shifted when we left Harvard.
“Your cynicism is adorable, but, no. I just don’t see the point in you waiting downstairs. My mom will be happy to meet you.”
And maybe I’m hoping Lena will be a little bit of a buffer.
Lena concedes and steps into the elevator.
“Thank you,” I say.
“Show me your lock picking skills when we get back, and that’ll be all the thanks I need.”
“You’ve got it.”
Inside the apartment it’s dark, apart from the light shining from upstairs in Mom’s bedroom. I mentally weigh the odds of whether or not I can make it up to my room to drop the part and slip back out of the apartment without Mom noticing.
“I’ll be right back,” I say. I flip on a couple of lights in the living room before heading for the stairs. The chandelier above the dining table brightens the space enough that I can see the worry in Lena’s eyes. “Hey, buffers can’t—-”
“Gabriel?” Mom calls from her room.
I can’t be sure, but I swear I just saw Lena make the sign of the cross. She backs up toward the door, maybe she’s thinking about making a run for it, but Mom appears—saving me from Lena saving herself.
“¿Qué haces aquí , hijo?” she asks. Ah, crap, she’s busted out the Spanish, which means she’s about to lay into me—then she sees Lena.
She straightens her posture and shakes her head slightly so her hair falls back behind her shoulders.
Mom’s wearing a black dress, some kind of animal fur wrap-thing, and her signature toothy grin.
The fur is real.
Her smile is fake.
“Mom, this is my friend Lena,” I say. “We just came by to drop this off.”
Gabe’s mom hustles down the stairs in her mile-high heels like a boss.
“Lena, pleasure to meet you,” she says. She looks me up and down, probably wondering why the heck I’m wearing her clothes before extending her hand to me.
She smells like expensive perfume.
I wonder if I smell like anything other than fear.
“You as well, Mrs. Martinez,” I say. I intend for my voice to sound confident, but it comes out like a mouse's squeak instead.
“ Ms . please, honey,” she says. Even though she throws in the word honey, there’s no mistaking that she’s correcting me. “I dropped the Mrs., thank god, and frankly, I’d like to stay as far away from it as possible.”
I wonder if she has any idea how insulting that must feel to Gabe to hear her say that, to have her talk the way that she does about his father right in front of him.
Gabe’s mom turns back to him and asks, “This one doesn’t run with a bunch of criminals does she?”
“No, ma’am,” I shake my head