Carlos leaned back in his seat and sighed. “What’s wrong?”
Tiffany glanced at him, then looked back at her glass. “Nothing,” she mumbled. She grabbed her fork and started to play with it.
“Come on, out with it,” Carlos prodded. “You’ve been quiet all night, and you haven’t so much as looked at me for more than a few seconds.”
“I have not.” Tiffany put the fork back on the table and looked at him. She sighed deeply. “I was…For the past…” she broke off, not sure how to tell him.
A small fear started to creep into Carlos’ chest. “Are you dumping me?” he asked in a quiet voice.
Tiffany blinked a few times. “Of course not! What makes you think that?” She took his hand in hers and squeezed it reassuringly.
Carlos exhaled in relief. “Then what?”
“I’m thinking about leaving the force.”
“Leaving the…” Carlos stopped. “Why?”
Tiffany shrugged slightly. “I don’t think it’s what I want to do anymore.” She avoided his gaze, and picked up the fork again.
“That’s not the real reason, is it.” Carlos stared at her until she looked at him again. “Is it?”
“I don’t…look, all I said was that I was thinking about it.”
“That’s not an answer, and you know it.” Carlos tried to soften his voice, but he could hear the anger in it. He leaned back slightly as Tiffany straightened and glared at him.
“Don’t you get snarky with me, Carlos,” she said evenly. “If I decide to leave the force, then I will.”
Carlos bit his lip slightly to keep from saying his retort. He decided to try another tactic. “How long have you been thinking about this?”
“A few days.” Tiffany sighed. “Can we just drop it?”
“Are you going to follow through?”
“Who the hell knows?” Tiffany asked, suddenly angry. “You know me, I’m just a rich bitch who gets sudden urges and follows them.”
Carlos’ mouth dropped slightly. “I have never thought that about you, and you know that!” He stood from the table, walked out to her living room, sat down heavily on the couch and leaned back. He could hear her get up and take the dishes off of the table. After a few minutes, he sighed and got up.
Tiffany turned from the sink when she heard him enter the kitchen. “Admit it, Carlos. You’d feel better if I wasn’t on the force anymore.”
Carlos stopped walking. “Why do you think that?”
“What I do worries you…doesn’t it.”
“The truth, please!”
Carlos took one look at her stance, knew that the ‘hands on hips, pursed lips’ routine meant that she wasn’t going to accept anything but the truth, and decided to come clean. “It scares the hell out of me at times.” He held his hands out in front of him as he tried to explain. “But, I know the job. I did that job. I am very familiar with the risks involved.”
“Exactly.” She turned back to the sink and started to wash the dishes.
He watched her back for a few moments. “So that’s it, huh? You’re willing to throw away your career because of me?” He walked up and stood beside her. “No.”
“Look at me,” he demanded. She faced him, and Carlos frowned slightly. “Don’t you quit your job because of me.”
“I’m not finished,” he interrupted. “You are a police detective…and a damn good one. I won’t let you throw that away because of me.”
“Rather high on yourself, aren’t you?” Tiffany said. “The world does not revolve around you, Mr. Sandoval…there are a lot more reason than that for me wanting to quit.”
Carlos took a step back and regarded her coolly. “Really…then why don’t you tell me.”
“Can we talk about his later?” Tiffany went back to doing the dishes. “It’s getting annoying.”
“Well, far be it for me to get annoying.” He stormed out of the kitchen, grabbed his coat, and headed for the door. “Later,” he said as he opened the door.
Tiffany stood in the kitchen and closed her eyes as the door slammed shut behind him.
Tiffany peered though the peephole, then opened the door. Carlos looked at her. “Feel like discussing it now?”
“It’s three a.m. Carlos,” Tiffany said. She moved to the side and let him in. “I thought you’d be home in bed by now.”
Carlos shrugged. “So did I.” He walked to the couch and sat on the arm. “Actually, I’ve been driving around for the past four hours.”
“Why?” Tiffany sat beside him on the couch and put her head on his lap. She smiled as he started to run his fingers through her hair.
“Because I hate fighting with you,” Carlos admitted. “I need to understand why you want to leave the police force.”
“I did…but that was a completely different thing.”
Tiffany lifted her head and looked at him. “Why is it different?”
“Because the world revolves around me, that’s why.” He smiled as she laughed slightly. “Scoot over.” He sat on the couch when she moved. “Now, no arguments, no yelling…tell me why you want to leave the force.”
Tiffany sighed deeply. “I almost killed a kid the other day.”
“Wha?” Carlos stopped. “Tell me about it.”
“I was at the store, just to pick up a few things, when these kids came in to rob the place.” She paused. “I pulled out my gun, told them to freeze…the others took off, and there’s this kid…” She looked at Carlos. “He couldn’t have been more than fourteen! A kid!”
Carlos squeezed her hand. “It’s okay.”
“I kept telling him to put the gun down…he kept yelling that he was going to shoot me.” She closed her eyes and exhaled. “He finally put the gun down, but…I came so close to having to shoot him.”
“That’s rough,” Carlos finally said. “But he had a gun on you.”
“He was a kid!”
“Do you know how many gangbangers in this city are under fifteen?” He asked. “How many would love to take out a cop?”
Tiffany sighed. “I know, I know…but that doesn’t make it any easier. No one would look at it like that, either, you know?”
“What do you mean?” Carlos put his arm around her and pulled her closer.
“If I had shot him, I would be labeled as the ‘cop who shot a kid’…not the ‘cop who shot at a robber in self defense’, but only that I shot him.” She paused for a moment. “And I am getting so sick of that attitude from people.”
“Yeah,” Carlos whispered.
“And some mother would mourn a child…mourn a future taken away…” She swallowed hard. “I don’t want to be responsible for that,” she finished in a whisper.
“You wouldn’t be,” Carlos replied.
Tiffany ran her hands over her face and exhaled. “So, anyway, that’s the reason.” She looked at him. “Now for the question…”
Carlos nodded. “Can you leave the force and be happy?”
“I don’t know.” She looked up at him. “I don’t know if I can honestly answer that question.”
“I think it’s something you better think long and hard about before making any decisions.”
Carlos held her as she slept. He brushed her hair out of her face with his hand and ran a finger along her cheek, down her neck and to her shoulder and back again. He leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes.
“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” he whispered.