Midnight wasn’t Camila Cruz’s favorite time of the day. She hated the silence of the earth. The dark plains zipped pass her before she could even blink, and she hardly made out any of the local buildings. Traffic was scarce, having only seen one or two cars on the road. No one wanted to out at this time of night. So why her ex decided to schedule their date at midnight, she hadn’t a clue. She shot him a dirty look as he drove.
All the while Denzel just drove with one hand gripping the wheel and the other hanging out the window. He hadn’t even bothered to meet her death stare. He must’ve been in his own world, or either he was just ignoring her . . . as usual. Camila held onto the cushion of her seat as the truck jetted down the winding highway. Guys and their stupid toys. She wished he would speed when she wasn’t in the car with him.
“So, you excited?” Denzel asked, grinning from ear to ear.
Camila held on to the glove compartment as the truck gained speed. “Not really,” she said.
Suddenly, he made a sharp left onto a large plain field that lead straight into a forest. His trailer junk of a truck bobbed up and down over the uneven terrain like a ship sailing over rocky waves. The torn seatbelt across Camila’s chest was threatening to break and send her flying through the windshield if he didn’t slow down.
“Slow down a bit.”
Denzel put on the brakes and the vehicle slowed. Even then, the Chevy still tipped over, giving her whiplashes in the seat. Camila dragged out a heavy sigh. She regretted stepping inside the piece of junk, let alone let Denzel take her on another date. He had been very persistent, which was a first in their relationship. Camila had never seen him fight so hard for something, including their relationship.
Maybe he took their last fight really hard. It was still fresh in her mind; the yelling, name calling and the spilled dirty laundry neither of them apologized for. Camila ended up leaving, for good this time. She hadn’t spoken to him for weeks. Then he called her the week before, convincing her that it was old news.
Camila continued to thumb the bracelet over her wrist under her jacket. It was too soon to tell him about Isaac. She wasn’t sure yet if she had made the right decision or not. A part of her still had feelings for Denzel. Whether or not that was enough to make her stay in Ohio, she wasn’t sure.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked.
A smile played on his lips. “You worry too much, girl.”
Camila rolled her eyes. “I just don’t understand why we can’t go out in the daylight, like normal people do.”
“Well, I wanted to be spontaneous. You always said I was too predictable.”
Camila crossed her arms and looked out the window. “This is way over the top,” she murmured under her breath.
Finally, they came through a clearing in the forest. Denzel drove out to what looked to be a meadow. He moved further up, bringing into focus a picnic mat decorated with lit candles. A wine bottle and the matching glasses were placed as the center piece. Camila stared in awe, smiling, but soon stopped herself. This wasn’t right.
He was becoming his old self again. Denzel was turning into the guy she fell for, before the late-night texts, the pictures and sneaking around. Things were almost back to normal. Almost.
Denzel brought the truck to a complete stop right before the picnic mat. Camila leapt out the passenger side and noticed that the meadow cutoff a few ways away from her. She took a couple of steps forward, careful not to get too close to the edge. Heights made her stomach do back-flips. She arched forward, gulping at the large body of water down below. Its dark waves crashed over jagged rocks with a loud swoosh.
“So,” she heard Denzel say from behind. His strong arms soon wrapped around her waist. “Is this okay?”
She glanced back at him.
He returned a grin, trying to conceal the desperate hope that Camila knew lie behind his deep mahogany eyes.
“I hate heights,” she said. “You know that.”
“But you like picnic’s, right?” he asked. He gestured to the picnic setting behind them.
Camila removed his arms from around her waist. She walked towards the picnic, going over the mat’s arrangement. Everything was so perfectly set that it was difficult for her to complain about anything.
“Yea it looks . . . it looks really good,” she said, avoiding his gaze. She took a seat at the edge of the mat before Denzel sat next to her.
“Now what I do wrong this time?”
“Nothing, it’s just . . .” Camila hesitated, wanting to tell him everything but nothing came out.
To tell Denzel the truth about the picnic, the bracelet and their relationship was too much for her to handle. She didn’t want a reason to stay behind in Cleveland. A selfish part of her wanted to start another fight, just so it would be easier to say goodbye. She wanted to tell Denzel that whatever feelings she had left for him, were finally gone. But she sat there, unable to deny his efforts.
During the last few years of their relationship Denzel had been lazy. He wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of creating a romantic evening for the two of them. A booth at MacDonald’s was about as far as wooing her went. Dinner at home usually meant Roman noodles and hot sauce but tonight—tonight things were different.
“Baby look, I’m trying,” he said. “I really am.”
Camila played anxiously with the long, black curls of her hair, watching the small flames burn bright over the candles. She wouldn’t look at him, she couldn’t. The diamond bracelet she kept hidden under her jacket felt as though it weighed a ton. It was as if Isaac were there, trying to save her from him. Denzel’s desperate gaze made her stomach sink to her feet. However, their mistakes could not go unchecked.
The past had a funny way of bringing up dark secrets that couldn’t seem to be put to rest and Camila had a fair share of them. When she glanced down at the bracelet again, she realized just how unfaithful she had been. In a twisted way, she couldn’t help but smile at the dazzling jewel.
“I know you are,” Camila said. She watched how the diamonds twinkled in the warm candle light. She only dreamed about gifts like these growing up. Her mother paid for their meals with food stamps and her daddy was nowhere in sight. It was hard to even a get Christmas tree on Christmas. Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness didn’t grow up in the projects.
“I don’t think you do,” Denzel said.
Camila noticed him staring hard at the bracelet around her wrist. He sat, clenching his jaw.
“I love you, girl,” he said. He gaze shifted back at her, looking to her expectantly.
But the silence lingered on and all the while, Camila continued to play with the bracelet.
“You can’t even say it back.,” Denzel mumbled.
“It’s not that I can’t say it . . . I’m just not sure anymore.”
“’Bout us?” Denzel snapped. His eye’s burned a hole through the picnic mat.
Camila bit her lip. He wouldn’t understand.
Denzel grew up in the Hood, just as she had. He lived a few streets over from her house, hung out with the same people she knew and went to the same school. He was used to the sound of firing shots in the night and the drug’s littered in the streets. Denzel’s parents were hardly home, except for when they needed money. By the next morning they’d leave and be gone for weeks. Despite everything, Denzel was content with his life.
And everything that he was and would become, Issac made up for. He worked at a multi-million-dollar Finance company in Atlanta, making around fifty grand a year. Often Isaac flew back and forth between Cleveland and Atlanta to see Camila on the weekends. He was always there to comfort her after fighting with Denzel for hours on end. She wished he were here now, swooping her up in those big, strong arms of his.
Denzel glanced at her face, then the bracelet and her face again. His expression softened somewhat, but she could still see the anger just below the surface. “Look Cam, I don’t care who the dude is, but if you want out, then just say it.”
Camila bit the inside of her cheek. She wasn’t ready to answer that question yet. It wasn’t the right time, but when exactually was the right time? She wished he would man up and end the relationship. If he would stop trying to make something work that’s already been broken, she could make her decision.
Then her phone buzzed in her pants pocket. Camila slowly pulled her cell out and looked at the caller ID. The blue screen read in bold, capital letters ISSAC. She restrained herself from smiling. It wasn’t hard admitting to herself that every time she saw his name, her heart skipped a beat. But at the same time, she knew it shouldn’t.
“Is that him?” Denzel asked. His face hardened in the orange candle light.
Camila felt a lump of something forming in her throat. Her palms grew sweaty. “Denzel . . .”
“Just tell me his name,” he interrupted her.
Camila furrowed her eyebrows at him. “What does it matter that you know his name?”
Denzel didn’t say anything; he just looked at her expectantly.
Camila looked away and tucked her cell back into her purse. She stood up from the mat and crossed her arms. “Take me home,” she ordered.
Denzel glared at Camila; the whites of his eyes gave off a glaring contrast to the inflamed light. He clenched his jaw momentarily before standing up from the set picnic. Denzel kept his gaze set on her but the moment they made contact, Camila turned and walked away. She headed for the truck sitting behind the mat and got in on the passenger’s side. She slammed the door shut and waited in the quiet darkness of the vehicle for Denzel. In the rearview mirror she watched as he stood standing in place, right where she left him. She could still feel the weight of his gaze through the mirror. Camila knew this had to end somehow. As soon as Denzel finished cleaning up the picnic and got back inside the truck, she admitted to herself that she was going to say it. She was going to tell him the very thing that had been nagging at her all night. He at least deserved that much from her. They both deserved it.
“I’m moving to Atlanta this summer,” Camila said. A deathly silence hung suspended in the air between them. Camilia could feel his burning gaze shoot right into her and even though she felt it, she couldn’t force herself to look at him. Instead, she watched the body of water; its waves moved in large ripples, swooshing back and forth. The ocean was an everlasting darkness that encompassed the rest of the world. What lay beyond it, was completely out of Camila’s reach. All she could see was a black abyss filled with nothing.
“To be with him,” Denzel said, sullenly. It wasn’t a question.
Camila nodded. “He and I are moving in together.”
“That was supposed to be our dream,” Denzel said.
“You’d never come up with the money,” Camila said, her heart racing. “You always said ‘I’ll find another job’ but you never did. You never did anything.”
“What about today? Tonight?” he asked.
Camila shook her head. “This was a mistake. I shouldn’t have come.”
Denzel huffed in his seat. “Why did you?”
Camila didn’t answer. She didn’t know what to say to him or what she could say. She glanced at the bracelet over her wrist again. It glowed liked the stars in the sky. She’d never seen anything sparkle the way real diamonds did. They mesmerized her and she couldn’t take her eyes off them. Camila held her bejeweled wrist in her other hand, rubbing a thumb along the brackets. It was comforting to think of Isaac in this way.
“What do you want from me Camila? Huh? What do you want?” she heard Denzel ask. His voice rose with frustration.
She continued to rub her thumb along the bracelet, tracing over the shape of the miniature diamonds. This was all she wanted. The only thing she would ever need from a man. “Nothing,” Camila finally said. Her tone was dazed and indifferent, sounding almost unfamiliar even to herself.
Beside her, she heard Denzel’s heavy breathing. It was nothing but that agonizing, breathing for several minutes. Then Denzel cut the engine on and the truck gave a loud rumble to life. However, they didn’t move. From the corner of her eye, Camila saw Denzel pause at the wheel. She watched as he stared ahead at the dark ocean. His eyebrows drew downward, darkening his eyes that were once a soft, milky mahogany. She watched as he tightened his grip on the wheel, his knuckles turned the color of her lip balm.
Camila sat glancing between the ocean and him with a worrisome look on her face. She’d seen the news stories about domestic violence, read about the ‘crazy ex losing control’ in the newspapers and seen enough ‘abusive couples’ on Lifetime. It always ends with immediate death. Camila never thought she was the type of girl that would happen to. Nor did she think Denzel was that kind of guy. He was never that insecure about himself to the point where he needed to hit or threaten a woman. Never.
“Denzel!” she said. “Are you serious right now? Really?”
He didn’t say anything. He just sat there, staring out at the dark ocean. The waves turned monstrous, moving faster and larger with every second that ticked by.
“You’re crazy,” Camila spat. She pulled on the inside handle of the passenger door but it wouldn’t unlock. Her heart sunk. The lock had gotten stuck a number of times but now was not the time. Frantically, Camila yanked at the handle again and again but still, it wouldn’t unlock. Camila glared at him. “Denzel stop playing around and open this damn door!” she yelled.
“No,” he said in a steely voice. He turned to look directly at her.
Camila slapped him across the face. “Open the door!”
He clenched his jaw and looked away from her. “Why should I?” he asked.
“Denzel,” Camila said, “if you don’t open this door I swear . . .”
Then suddenly Camila heard her Usher ringtone. A wave of relief washed over her. With shaking hands, she dived into her purse and retrieved her phone. Immediately, she yelled through the intercom, “Isaac you gotta come right now. I need you to come quick okay . . . my ex is crazy, he’s trying to-no, I’m not hurt but you gotta come quick because he’s going to . . .”
Denzel suddenly snatched the phone and the bracelet off her wrist before getting out of the truck. Camila watched in confusion as he stormed up to the edge of the cliff and threw the cell phone and bracelet out into the ocean. He stood there, watching as they crashed silently into the waves from a far. A moment later he slid back inside the truck and put the vehicle in reverse.
“What the hell was that?” Camila growled.
Denzel spun the vehicle around in the other direction and headed back through the forest without saying a word.
“Was that a game, Denzel?” Camila said. “Was it some sick, twisted, pathetic attempt to get me back? Huh?”
“You’re the only one whose playing games, Cam. Not me,” Denzel barked back at her.
She stared intently at him as the shadows drew in and out. His crappy truck rocked over the uneven terrain. Camila’s petite body bobbed up and down over the seat and she hated it. She hated that his truck was old, the cheesy picnic, the high cliff, the ocean and everything in between. Even worse, she couldn’t stand the fact that her wrist was bear again. Camila felt around her left wrist, yearning for the feel of the diamonds along her thumb. She had to have them, she needed them.
“Turn back,” Camila insisted. Tears welled in her eyes. “We have to get it back. Denzel, please . . .” She grabbed his shoulder desperately, but he harshly shrugged her off.
“It’s gone,” he said. “Besides, Isaac can buy you a new phone and some jewelry. He has it all, doesn’t he?”
“But you threw it in the ocean!” Camila cried. “You did that! Not him!” A stream of tears poured down her face. Black mascara stained the rim of her eyes, cheeks and chin.
“Yeah,” Denzel nodded. “Along with everything else you threw away.”
Camila sat in silence, with tears still rolling down her face. She sniffled before settling back into her seat, defeated. She didn’t care if she bobbed up and down in her seat anymore; she just allowed the movement of the truck to take control. There was no point in fighting anymore. The whole ride home she kept thinking of her diamonds. By now, they were drifting further and further down into the ocean. Navy blue shadows streaked across her and Denzel’s soulless faces along the highway. Soon a moment of complete obscurity swallowed their bodies’ whole and like the ocean, they disappeared into a deep abyss.