“I am sorry, Gavinito. But I do this for Manuelito.”
I tossed the pay stub on the ground. “He’s not mine.” I began to push the bike toward the garage.
“I prove it. We will do test.”
I halted. “What?”
“I told Letty I will take him to California for test. She cried and is mad, but she cannot stop me. I have my name on his birth certificate.” She pulled a plastic Ziploc from her purse holding a blue document in Spanish and waved it.
I took it from her. The words “Acta de Nacimiento” were large across the top. Below it, “Madre” was listed as “Rosa Jalindo.” Under “Padre” was only “Juan Juan.”
“I can fix,” Rosa said. “After test. Your name.”
I passed the certificate back. “Isn’t Letty going through enough? Her husband’s gone, and you took her son away.”
Rosa’s eyes filled with tears. “I know. But I will not let him go.”
“He lived in a perfectly nice neighborhood.” I gripped the handlebars of the bike. “I don’t get why they couldn’t stay there.”
“Let us go and test. You know a place where they do tests?” Her face was pleading and desperate.
Cars were starting to pull up at the garage as the lunch hour approached. I needed to get back. “Rosa, I have to get to work. I can’t do this right now.”
“You not answer me on phone. You cannot ignore.” Rosa’s face became fierce. “I will go in there. I tell your boss.”
Shit. “Rosa, you can’t blackmail me. I won’t put up with it.”
“You walk away from us.” She pulled Manuelito against her. “In Ensenada, you just drive away.”
Her words pierced me, but the rage was faster than the remorse. “I stayed there for hours, waiting. What the hell was I supposed to do?”
Manuelito turned his face into Rosa’s skirt, the sucker forgotten. Damn it. Damn it to hell.
“I can’t just leave work. And I have a girlfriend. What do you want from me?”
The wind kicked up, blowing her hair all around. “I want to show you your son,” she said calmly. “I want you to know him.”
I looked down at the boy, his expression hidden in the folds of denim. His dark hair blended into the shadows, but his grubby hand clutched the stick of the sucker.
I couldn’t ignore this. Whether or not the boy was mine, I’d engaged with Rosa too many times to ignore my responsibility to her. “Can you meet me in four hours, when I get off work? I’ll figure something out.”
“Don’t come here.” I looked down the street. “There’s a restaurant down the block. Tony’s. You see it?”
She turned her face in the direction I pointed. “Yes.”
“Meet me there. Four o’clock.”
Manuelito peeked out then as if he knew the conflict was over. I remembered Rosa saying he understood English, and I wondered how much he could figure out. The boy had to be traumatized, his father disappearing, getting snatched from his home. How much damage would that cause?
But he looked at me with sober eyes. After a few seconds, he put the sucker back in his mouth. As Rosa turned away, he glanced back at me, curious, serious.
Mario waited by the door of one of the bays. “That did not look good.”
I parked the bike behind him. “It wasn’t.”
He shot around, as if just realizing something. “Is she one of your hookers?”
“Yes. No. I mean, I don’t know.” Rosa said she wasn’t, but I didn’t know the truth anymore.
“That sounds ominous.”
“Yeah. It’s trouble.” I tugged the keys out of the Suzuki and pulled the clipboard down with the paperwork on it to make note of the problem.
He wouldn’t let things go. “What’s the deal with the kid?”
I was tempted to slam the clipboard against the wall, but I reined it in. “For fuck’s sake, Mario, it’s just a situation. I’ll deal with it.”
But Mario just laughed. “Gavin, you get in the most ridiculous predicaments.”
I glanced around the garage. Rob was in the pit. Two other mechanics were way down in the other bays. The service guys were rapidly changing filters and oil. “One question. If you cross over from Mexico, how long can you stay? Like when your cousins come.”
His eyebrows shot up. “She’s a national?”
“Well, if she has a border crossing card, she can come and go as she likes, but she has to go back within 72 hours. Otherwise she has to get a tourist visa, which is expensive, and if her income is, well, undocumented, then they’ll turn her down. You have to prove you’re coming back.”
“She has an apartment.”
“That will help.”
“It’s owned by her brother, though.”
He shrugged. “Depends on who looks at her papers then.”
“It was sort of last minute, I think.”
“Then she probably had a card.” He gripped my shoulder. “She won’t trouble you long, my friend.”
“Thanks.” I scrawled a couple words on the work order and headed to the office to turn it in to Bud. I wasn’t sure which I wanted more, for the hours to speed by or for the end of the day to never come.