He blamed her for everything. His bitterness? Her fault. It was raining outside? Her fault. They cut off his hot water? Her fault. His brother jumped off a roof? Her fault.
While the underlying cause of his bitterness was her, he knew she had no control over the weather or his brother’s mental state. It was just easier to blame someone else.
“Why’re you just sittin’ there?” A smack on his arm snapped Leo from his thoughts. “Go! We haven’t got all night.”
“Tsk.” Leo pulled his hood up, hiding all but a few strands of his blond hair. “Do it yourself if you can’t wait two damn minutes,” he said to Bryson, getting out of the old, beaten up car and slamming the door behind him.
Leo buried his hands in the shallow pockets of his thin, black hoodie and was greeted by the smell of cigarettes and jerky when he entered the convenience store. Aside from the cashier who was playing some sort of colorful game on her smartphone, Leo was the only person there, which was to be expected at one o’clock in the morning.
He slowly walked down the aisles, pretending to look through the snacks and stopping when he got to the alcohol. He picked up one of the bottles, turning it in his hand before looking up and making eye contact with the cashier. Her eyes were blue. He smiled and she returned her attention to her phone.
He knew what he was doing; this wasn’t his first time.
Putting the bottle back on the shelf, Leo made sure the cashier’s eyes stayed on her phone as he slowly stepped toward her, reaching into the back of his faded jeans and pulling out a bag and a small, silver handgun.
Leo was standing in front of her in an instant, pointing the gun at her. She gasped, dropping her phone on the counter. Her face drained of color and her eyes widened with fear. He tossed the bag at her and she caught it with shaking hands. “Give me all of it. Now.”
“No shit,” Leo said, holding his arm higher. “Hurry up.”
The cashier opened the register and quickly began tossing all the bills into the bag. Leo reached over the counter with his left hand and forcibly grabbed the bag from her, keeping the gun pointed at her as he backed his way out of the store. It wasn’t until he felt the brisk wind on his back that he lowered the gun and ran back to the car. Bryson was already driving before Leo even got both feet in the vehicle.
“How much d’you think’s in there?”
Leo shrugged. “Enough.”
The drive back to their rundown apartment took an hour. Leo got out of the car first, holding onto the bag tightly. He sighed, pulling the hood down, letting his hair fall over his eyes. He’d have to cut it again soon, he thought.
He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a figure sitting on the front step of the apartment complex, her long hair blowing along with the wind. Leo didn’t need to see her face to know who it was.
“Ah, man. I’ll leave you two to talk,” Bryson said, snatching the bag from Leo’s hand, stepping around the girl and into the apartment complex.
She stood up, wiping the dirt from the jeans Leo knew were worth more than his entire apartment. He frowned. “What are you doing here, Taylor?”
“I came to see you.”
“Bullshit,” he said, scoffing. “Did you remember another thing you left here? Because chances are I’ve already pawned it.”
Taylor stepped forward into the moonlight and Leo stepped back. He could see her face better now. She was exactly how he remembered her: big, brown eyes, soft cheeks, and a nose that was just a little crooked. “That’s not why I came,” she said softly.
Leo’s upper lip curled in disgust. “Go home.”
“I said go!” he snapped. He walked by her, but he didn’t get that far up the steps before she grabbed the back of his hoodie with both hands. “Let go of me.”
“Not until you talk to me.” Her words were brave, but her voice was trembling. “I need to talk to you.”
Leo sighed, rolling his eyes. “You had plenty of opportunities to talk to me when we were together. Seriously, go home. A girl like you doesn’t belong in a place like this.”
Taylor didn’t let go of his hoodie as she said, “Stop thinking you know what’s best for me, Leo. I came here because I need to talk to you, so just give me ten minutes. That’s all.”
“You get five minutes,” Leo said, pulling the fabric out of her hands and turning so he was facing her. “No more than that. Let’s go. We’ll talk in the park.”
There weren’t many children living in this area anymore, so the park was only ever used by bums who needed a bench to sleep on. There was a swing set in the middle that had two swings. Leo and Taylor each sat on one. Taylor was sitting still, but Leo was pushing his feet on the ground, making the swing go back and forth. Its squeaking was loud enough to wake one of the homeless people on a bench nearby, but Leo didn’t care. He even ignored when the man started cursing and flipping him off.
“Your five minutes have already started. Why aren’t you saying anything?” he asked, keeping his eyes straight in front of him. “If I came here and you’re just gonna be silent the whole time, I’m gonna be pissed.”
Taylor took a deep breath and Leo snuck a glance at her from the corner of his eye. She was pulling at her fingers, something he recognized as one of her nervous habits. “I, uh…” she started.
“You what?” Leo prompted when she didn’t finish her sentence.
Leo was looking at her now, his eyes wide. She kept staring at her fingers, pulling at them and trying to crack her knuckles every now and then. She licked her lips, pressing them together.
“What the hell?” Leo started laughing. “You can’t be serious. After all you did, you think you can come here, say you’re sorry, and I’ll accept it with a smile?”
She shook her head. “No,” she said. “But I wanted to say it anyway. I’ve been thinking about you a lot, Leo. And I’m worried. Your lifestyle…It’s not good.”
Leo rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know, you told me that while we were dating, too.”
Taylor turned to face him so fast that Leo jumped a bit. “That bag you had in your hand tonight. You robbed a place again, didn’t you? You’re going to get caught and thrown in jail one of these days, you know that?”
Leo scoffed, standing up from the swing. “If you came to give me a lecture, I’m leaving.”
He started walking away, but Taylor was behind him in an instant, grabbing onto his wrist and holding it tightly with both of her small hands. “Wait,” she said, her voice soft. “There’s one more thing.”
“Then make it quick.” At this point, he’d say anything to make her go away. Seeing her face alone was enough to bring back memories he’d rather keep hidden away. She may have made him happy once, but now he blamed her for everything that was wrong in his life. She made him miserable and here she was, acting like she was the victim. Leo couldn’t stand it.
“I miss you.”
Leo looked at her over his shoulder. “Liar.”
“Li-ar,” he said, one syllable at a time.
Taylor frowned, still holding his wrist. “I’m not lying. That’s how I really feel.”
He laughed, shaking his head. “It seems you’ve forgotten the reason we broke up in the first place. You’re delusional if you think I’d believe that.” He pulled his wrist away so hard that she stumbled.
“No, Leo, I really-”
“No, you don’t,” he said with a dry laugh. “And even if you did, what makes you think I miss you, too?”
“Well, I…” she trailed off.
“Exactly,” he paused. “Go find some other guy to use to spite your parents.”
Leo started walking back in the direction of his apartment, his blood boiling. He hated her for making him so angry. He hated her for coming all the way here and saying that kind of nonsense to confuse him.
He was a hypocrite because Taylor wasn’t the only liar.
He was barely out of the park before she grabbed his hoodie again. He grabbed the bottom this time and pulled so hard that he stumbled back and the handgun fell onto the concrete with a clank.
Taylor was staring at it, her grip on him loosening slowly. “Leo,” she breathed.
Leo reached down and picked it up, putting it back quickly. “Why are you looking at me like that? You know I have one.” He shook his head. “Just go home, would you? I don’t want to see your face anymore.”
“Leo,” she called when he tried to walk away again.
He ignored her and kept walking.
“Is it loaded?” she asked, her voice getting soft the more he walked. “Is the gun loaded?”
“What does it matter?” he snapped.
“Because,” she started, out of breath from running after him. “You told me before that you never actually had any bullets in it because you just used it to scare people into giving you money. You said you’d never even think about killing another person.” When Leo looked back at her, she was leaning on her knees a few paces behind him and breathing heavily. “So I’ll ask again. Is it loaded?”
Leo turned and faced her, his expression blank as she looked up at him expectantly.
He pulled the gun out again and opened it, turning it over. His eyes never left her face as she watched the bullets fall.