Rosa pushed back on her hair, smoothing the wild tresses away from her face. “Dios mio.”
“You come here. You force the boy on him.” Mario waved a waitress away. “What else should we think?”
Rosa pushed Manuelito out the end of the booth. “You are a bad man,” she said to Mario. Then to me, “You have my number. Tell me where to go to test. I will be there.”
She shoved the boy’s arms into his jacket and snatched up hers. I sat there, stewing, not sure what I was more angry about, Mario’s heavy-handed behavior or the situation itself. When the door jangled, I jumped up and ran after them.
“Wait, Rosa,” I said, catching up with them on the sidewalk. “Halto or alta or whatever.”
She stopped and turned around with eyes that were wet and glistening. “You never learn Spanish well at all, Gavinito.”
“I’m sorry Mario was so harsh. He’s looking out for me.”
Manuelito tugged on her hand. “¡Paleta! ¡Paleta!”
Rosa reached into her bag and produced another round lollipop. Manuelito grabbed it and struggled with the wrapper.
“I do not like him. He act like he would send me back.”
“It’s not an easy situation to explain to people.”
She took the lollipop back from Manuelito and tugged off the plastic. He stuck it in his mouth and laid his head against her leg.
“You must see him a lot for him to be so close to you.”
“He is a very happy boy. He trusts people.”
“Are you okay for money? Where are you staying?”
“I have a cousin.”
“Is it near here?”
“I can take bus.”
All I had was my bike, and I couldn’t exactly put both of them on it. “Okay. I will call you later, when I find a place to do the test.”
“Okay, Gavin.” She hesitated. “I do not wish to…snag you.”
“I just want the boy to have a father. His father. Letty’s man was no good.”
“I get it.”
“I know you have girlfriend.” She stared at the ground, and I remembered her telling me she was not a prostitute for anyone but me.
“What about you? No boyfriend? No one?”
“I have not. This—” she patted Manuelito’s head. “This is hard enough.”
“What about that cousin guy? Has he bothered you?”
She shook her head. “I leave my place. My family is to be outraged when they hear Letty say what happened.”
“Rosa, I wish I could do more.”
She caught her billowing hair with her hand. “Do the test, Gavin. Then we know what to do next.”
I nodded. She turned and headed up the street toward a bus stop. I’d done all I could do for now.
When she was well away, Mario came up from behind. “So what’s the plan?”
“Damn it, Mario, you scared the crap out of her.”
“Nah. She was up for it. But she’s going to be a problem if that kid is yours.”
We headed toward the garage. “Well, yeah. I have no idea what we’ll do.”
“I mean, that girl is totally over her head in love with you.”
I halted, turning back around to stare at the distant shapes of Rosa and the boy standing near the bench. “She was paid to like me.”
“I call bullshit on that. It’s all over her face.” He kicked at an acorn on the sidewalk. “So what’s the likelihood this kid is yours? Did you do this chick balls out?”
I sighed. “Apparently. The first time. It just happened.”
“You are one crazy idiot,” Mario said. We crossed the street to the garage. “You tell your girl yet?”
“I’m heading there now.”
“Better do it before this blows up in your face.”
“I’m on it.”
He stopped several yards from the open bays and clapped me on the shoulder. “Good luck, man. You’re going to need it.”
Rather than cutting through the garage, I walked along the front to where my bike was parked on the other side. Time to head to the hospital, wait out the parents, and try to get Corabelle alone. I hoped she was doing better, or I didn’t know if I could shock her with this news. But it was definitely time to confess.
Gavin looked like hell when he poked his head in the door. He faked a smile, but I could still spot his moods, the real ones, not the facade he put on.
Mom had given up on knitting the galaxy-sized blanket and taken up a book instead. Dad was watching the TV on silent, an old Western he probably knew by heart anyway. They looked up when Gavin came in, and Dad may have tensed up, but they greeted him congenially.
“How did today go?” Gavin dragged his chair closer to the bed.
“Good. I walked to the bathroom and back, so I got free of the pee pipe again.”
“I won’t go wandering this time.”
I bit my lip, wondering what else I could say with my parents so close. I squinted at my father’s watch. Just after five. They could be here for hours still.
“Can you eat regular things yet? Could I get you something?” Gavin enclosed one of my hands in his.
“I got a lovely colorless broth for lunch. So yeah, bring me an entire pepperoni pizza, extra cheese, a burger from Dan’s, and a hot-fudge sundae.”