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conversation on the road

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Luisa sinks back into the black leather of the car seat, letting her eyes grow unfocused as the car pulls away from the curb and the orange street lights pass faster outside. She doesn't spare a glance for Rose in the driver's seat, a stranger with short blonde hair and black-rimmed glasses who seems different, somehow, but her entire body is aware of her nearness anyway. She is tired, so tired, her eyes swollen and scratchy from crying. Rose doesn't speak, she just drives, and Luisa doesn't attempt to figure out where they're going. It doesn't matter.

She'd been picked up in the hotel loading dock by a well-dressed young man who introduced himself as Manuel, and he'd shown her into the back of a nondescript gray Sedan. She'd paid attention then, as he'd driven her south on Biscayne, and then they'd waited under an overpass, out of the street lights, until the sleek black convertible pulled up. The moment she'd come closest to losing it was when Manuel asked for her cell phone. Rose stood motionless nearby, holding the passenger side door open, and she felt almost like she was outside her body, looking down at her hands as they turned the small black piece of glass and plastic over a few times, before handing it to him. Just like that. No ties. She should feel scared, excited, anything at all, instead she just felt numb. She still does.

Finally she turns to look at Rose. She means to yell at her. Accuse her of... anything. Everything. Instead what comes out is: “Who are you?” and her throat aches with the softness of it. She wants to scream, but can't seem to find the energy.

Rose hesitates, and Luisa manages to draw out a small spark of her anger. “No more lies, no more lying. I mean it. Promise me, Rose.”

And Rose nods, draws breath to speak, but Luisa continues.

“Is that even your name?”

“It has been, for many years. I chose it for myself, and I won't answer to anything else.” She pauses, and then when she starts talking it's like she doesn't want to stop. “Who am I? I grew up outside of Tampa. My parents were small-time criminals, they were willing to do anything you asked as long as it got them money for drugs. They took turns in and out of jail my entire childhood, but they always got out because they were always willing to snitch.” Her voice is emotionless, and it sends chills down Luisa's back, and Luisa partially tunes it out as Rose recounts running away at 14, being taken advantage of, reinventing herself, creating Sin Rostro. She'll take out the details later, turn them over, but right now it's too much. Luisa has sad stories too.

“And then you met my father,” Luisa interrupts, skipping ahead. She can't bring herself to care about Rose's sad past at the moment. It rings true, and that's enough.

“And then I met you.”

Luisa snorts, looks away.

“I meant it, when I said that you were the only real thing in my life these past five years.” If there's a note of desperation in her voice, it doesn't show in her posture, her hands resting easily on the steering wheel. Maybe Luisa is just imagining it.

“What if I wanted to leave?”

“Then I'd arrange for you to be taken back to Miami. Or wherever else you wanted to go.”

“What if I went to the police?”

“You're free to go wherever you wanted.”

“What if I asked you to turn yourself in?”

“I'm sorry. I can't do that.”

They drive in silence for a while.

“How many people have you killed?” It's a macabre question, and Luisa wants to take it back the moment she hears the words out loud. She doesn't really want to know. But a strange serenity seems to have come over Rose since she began answering Luisa's questions.

“Indirectly? I have no idea. Hundreds? I've probably ordered.... twenty or thirty to be killed. At least. Anyone who happened to be caught in the crossfire. Twelve by my own hand.”

Luisa feels her insides twist. She suspected this. No, she didn't just suspect this. She knew this. But hearing Rose speak of it so casually... she feels the burn of tears in her eyes. She'd have thought she was all cried out. “My father among them.”



“It wasn't... personal. I needed the police to look in a different direction while I got my affairs in order.”

Luisa's head is spinning, she doesn't want to ask the next question, but she can't stop herself. “How did he die?”

She wants Rose to refuse to answer. To ask her if she really wants to know. But Rose just keeps talking. “I seduced him. I said I wanted to have sex outside in the hotel park, and I maneuvered him into the foundation for the pool. I started teasing him, and then when he was distracted I turned on the concrete pump. He suffocated quickly, and then it was just a matter of filling up the pool.”

This is too much truth for Luisa, and she feels the bile rising in her throat. “Stop the car. Stop the car!”

Rose pulls over on the gravelly shoulder, and Luisa barely makes it out of the car before she's throwing up. There's not much, and soon she's only dry heaving. She can't remember the last time she ate. She straightens, looks out unseeing into the darkness, the night air against the cold sweat on her skin making her shiver.

She doesn't know how long she's been standing there when she hears the crunch of footsteps. Rose hands her a water bottle, but doesn't say anything. Luisa rinses out her mouth, then takes a few deep swallows of the water, wishes it was something else.

“Would you kill me, if it served your purposes?”

“No!” There's more emotion in Rose's voice now than any time earlier tonight. “No, Luisa! I love you. I could never hurt you.”

Luisa feels the hysteria bubbling inside her. “Hurt me? Hurt me? Rose, that's all you've ever, ever done.”

Rose looks very sad. “And yet here you are.”

“And yet here I am.”

Rose cocks her head, studies her. “Why?”

Luisa sighs, a weight settling on her chest she can't seem to get out from under. “I have nothing left. Where else would I be? I think I've loved you since the first time I saw you.” She hears the venom creep into her voice. “God, I wish we'd never met.”

She takes a perverse pleasure in seeing the way Rose flinches, but doesn't wait for an answer, just turns around and gets back in the car.

“Let's go.”