Maddie stared out the car window at the dark, empty street, her heart in her throat. Phantoms of the salsa music from the club pounded against her skin. Tonight the silence between them was suffocating; it stole her voice. She took a deep breath and tried again. "Alejandro?"
"Um.. Friends of mine are having a party next Saturday.” Maddie squeezed her eyes shut, "I'd really like to introduce you to them. Will you come?"
"No." His anger dripped from his short, sharp word.
She sat silent, still, waiting for him to say something more; he didn’t. "Is that all the reply I'm to expect?" Maddie finally asked, fighting a bad English accent as she stole Mr. Darcy's line from Pride & Prejudice. Had her pride led her astray, just as Darcy's had, she wondered.
"You know I can't do that Maddie. I have a fiancée! I can't be seen going to a party with someone else. What if Carmen found out?"
"Are you going to tell her?,” she asked, her voice flat with anger, “Because no one going will; they don’t know her.”
“No, of course not.” He rotated his white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel.
“We go dancing almost every weekend, how is this so different?" Maddie stared at Alejandro expectantly.
"You're just my dance partner to her. Like a football buddy, it means nothing." He said, his eyes obstinately on the road.
"Bullshit! Are you telling me if she saw us dancing tonight she wouldn't mind?! Your hands were all over me! Anyone could have seen us!" Maddie ranted, her hands gesturing wildly with her words.
The streetlights strobed across Alejandro's face. He paled visibly.
“So why is that okay, but you won’t come with me to a private party? Why?” Her words were so hot they almost burnt her lips.
“Because we don’t have that kind of relationship Maddie!” Alejandro snapped, his hand smacking the steering wheel. In a strangled calm he continued, “Whether we like it or not, I’m going to marry Carmen. I have to show her some respect.”
"Wait," Maddie shook her head to clear her thoughts, "whether we like it or not? You don't want to marry her, do you?"
"I didn't say that," he spat.
"But you aren't denying it either. Shit, Alejandro do you love her?” Maddie asked, forgetting her own troubles to deal with the bigger issue.
“What's love got to do with it?” He countered.
“Everything! Marriage is about love!”
“No. Marriage is about duty, honour, family,” he explained, every word bitingly crisp.
“Is that why you're marrying her? Duty?” Maddie asked, shocked to her core.
“You wouldn't understand. It was how I was raised. How we both were. Carmen gets it.” His voice was sullen now.
“Marriage isn't a short term commitment… How can you risk it?” She breathed, her mind reeling.
“I'm not risking anything.” He scowled.
“Oh Ale, you're risking everything.” Her voice betrayed her heartache; she’d thought she loved him, but here sat a perfect stranger.