Carmen put the finishing touches on her makeup, keeping it fairly effortless and clean. Her hair was up in a simple ponytail, her overall look a far cry from the way she used to get dressed up for her DJ-ing gigs. After all, she had only been dressing up for one reason before: because she knew that Shane would be lurking somewhere in the back of the club, watching her and waiting to take her home for the night.
Those days were long gone though. She'd tried to reason, see things from Shane's side, but she just couldn't. What Shane had done to her was the last straw. She'd forgiven infidelity, she'd forgiven emotional distance, but she couldn't forgive the way Shane had trampled on their future - on her heart - so easily.
You just didn't do that kind of thing to someone you love.
Maybe Shane had never loved her at all.
Whatever the case, she was done thinking about it; done beating herself up over what she could've/should've done differently. There answer was always the same every time she thought it through: she never should've fallen in love with Shane in the first place.
With her records and CDs already loaded in her car, all she had to do was make it past her mother and hope to avoid any of the usual drama.
Taking the front staircase instead of the back stairs that led to the kitchen, she was surprised when she came face to face with her mother who was usually busy in the kitchen.
"Going out tonight, Carmencita?"
"Just to work, Ma," Carmen said dismissively, trying to make her way around the stocky woman.
"Maybe you should stop working so much and start trying to have fun again."
"Working is good. I need to work."
Carmen's avoidance of the issue wasn't lost on her mother who frowned sadly. This wasn't her fun and carefree little girl who could always find the good in even the worst situations. This girl standing in front of her was a far cry from the daughter she knew and loved; she was broken and the only person who could fix her was the person who had broke her in the first place.
"Throwing yourself into your work won't make the pain go away, Carmen. You don't need to work; you need to live again," her mother said sincerely, trying to look her daughter in the eyes.
"I am alive. If I wasn't I wouldn't have to feel the things that I do every day." Carmen finally met her mother's gaze, holding it for several seconds until the woman stepped out of her way and let her pass.
Mercedes watched her daughter leave, shaking her head sadly when Carmen had finally pulled away from their house. So much pain. So much suffering. And things would never get better as long as the girl kept lying to herself like that.
"No, mija. You are alive but you are not living.?
Carmen brought the last of her cases through the back door of the club, avoiding the buzz of the crowd already starting to form out front. Work was good. She loved DJ-ing and it kept her focused on music and music only. She made sure to pick up as many hours as she could at her personal assistant job during the day.
The only time she was ever alone with her thoughts was late at night and that was never a good time. The tiredness that showed on her face was evident of that. She'd lay down in her bed to sleep and spend hours remembering the way Shane felt against her when they slept, the way they'd laugh and kiss and just love each other; and it was more than her broken heart could handle. She'd finally fall asleep clutching a pillow to her chest, her face buried against it to drown out the sounds of her crying.
If her family had ever heard her, they never said anything. They knew better than to bring up Shane or what had happened. Anytime someone had tried, Carmen shut down and disappeared from the house for hours at a time. Pretty soon they all stopped trying to talk to her about it and let her deal with her pain in her own way, no matter how wrong they thought it was.
"Carmen, are you gonna be ready to go on soon?" the night manager called out from the doorway.
"Yep, this is the last of it. Just need two minutes to get my stuff together and I'm good to go."
"Fantastic. Hey, I left an envelope on your table, make sure you check it out."
"Who's it from?" she asked, her brow furrowing just a little.
"Eager fan I think."
Carmen offered a friendly smile as a thank you and quickly made her way over to her area, placing the crate down just off to the side. Her eyes quickly sought out the envelope and sure enough it was just where the manager had said it would be. It was plain white without any writing on it and Carmen was so busy thinking it had something to do with her music that she was never even suspicious of it.
Slipping her manicured fingernail under the seal, she gently tore it open and unfolded the paper, her heart nearly dropping when she instantly recognized the writing.
Her hands gripped the paper tightly as she read it, her head swimming with more emotions than she knew how to deal with. After all of the effort she'd put into making sure every letter sent to her house had been returned opened, even when her mother and cousins pleaded with her to just read one, Shane had still found a way past her wall of protection.
Forgetting for a moment that she had a job to do and was expected to start any moment, Carmen fumbled through one of her crates for a pen and turned the letter around, angrily writing on the blank side of it.
"Carm? You ready?" the manager asked, watching her with concern as the girl scribbled away feverishly.
"Yeah, just a sec," she said, barely paying any attention to anything but her own anger. She finished just a few moments later and hastily stuffed the paper back in the envelope, not caring that it was all crumbled up and looking quite a mess.
She turned the overstuffed envelope over and jotted Shane's name down on the front and handed it over to the manager with an overly friendly smile on her face.
"If you could just leave that behind the bar in case my 'fan' comes back, I'd really appreciate it."
She didn't wait for a reply, nor did she pay any attention to the look of confusion and concern she was receiving. She held her headphones up to one ear and started a song without hesitation, keeping her head down until she saw the manager walk away out of the corner of her eye.
The music that began thumping from the speakers was a little bit harder, a little bit wilder and louder than she was used to playing, but Carmen didn't care. The louder the music, the crazier the beats . . . the less she had to deal with her own thoughts.
No. You don't get to talk now. You had a year to talk to me. To tell me how you felt. To blow me off.
But you chose what was supposed to be the most important, magical day of our lives to break my heart, Shane. In front of our friends, in front of my family . . . and you didn't even have the heart to tell me to my face.
Seems only fair now that I deny you the same that you denied me, doesn't it?
Go to hell, Shane. Leave it be . . . it's over.