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“Oh my God.”

Carlos was shaking with laughter behind her.

“I know!”

“I look . . . I look like a drunken clown.”

Carlos pointed at her. “You said it! I didn’t! I did not say that! Remember, I did not say that!”

“Oh my God.” She turned to Carlos, who started laughing again as soon as she turned around. She grinned, felt the drying sour cream crack as her face moved, and giggled at the ridiculous sensation. Soon, she was laughing so hard she could barely breathe.

She held up her gloved hands and laughed even harder.

“I’m sorry for laughing at you!” Carlos said, while still laughing at her. But she couldn’t really blame him. “Does it still hurt? Do you need more sour cream?”

She shook her head, unable to talk. Eventually, she took a deep breath to answer him.

“More sour cream for my face, you mean? What do you think I am, a baked potato? Are you going to give me some butter and salt next?”

That destroyed both of them. Soon, they were both sitting on his bathroom floor, shaking with laughter and holding each other upright. Tears were streaming down her face, driving paths through the tacky sour cream, and that made her laugh even harder.

Finally, her laughter subsided.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you for laughing at me. And, you know, just in general.”

He rested his arm around her shoulders.

“That’s okay. Your face was on fire. I feel like you’re allowed to yell when your face is on fire.”

She took a deep breath.

“Oh my God, I feel like I’ve been exercising; my abs hurt from laughing that much.”

He ran his hands through her hair.

“God, the last time I laughed that much was . . .” He paused for a while. “I can’t even remember the last time I laughed that much. That felt pretty good.”

She smiled up at him.

“Well, that makes it almost worth setting my face on fire, then.” He opened his mouth, and she lifted her index finger and shook it at him. “I said almost worth it. Don’t get any funny ideas.”

He laughed.

“Okay, I have a confession to make.”

Oh no. It was never good news when a man said that to you.

“What is it?”

He took a deep breath.

“I had no idea if the sour cream would work. When I said I was sure, what I meant was that I seriously couldn’t think of anything else.”

She punched him on the arm, and he fell back against the bathroom floor with a grin on his face.

“You asshole. I thought this was going to be a real confession. I’m very angry at you for making me smear sour cream on my face on a lark, but it worked so I can’t really be mad at you, which makes me even madder.”

He stood and offered her his hand to pull her up off of the floor.

“I know, it’s a real conundrum, isn’t it? Ready to attack these enchiladas again? This time with gloves on?”

She nodded.

“You know what they say. No glove, no love.”

He groaned and pushed her ahead of him back into the kitchen.

* * *

• • •

An hour later, Carlos looked around his kitchen, satisfied. Nik was covering the last of the six trays of enchiladas with aluminum foil; soon they’d all go in the oven. She’d offered to wash the dishes, but he’d thought it would be cruel to let her wash the pot that the enchilada sauce had cooked in—those were the chilies that had attacked her, after all. So instead he was standing at the stove, elbow deep in soap bubbles, as he scrubbed all of his pans clean.

“Don’t you have a dishwasher?” she asked him.

He nodded.

“Yeah, why?”

She looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“Because you’re scouring your pots like that by hand—why don’t you just put them in the dishwasher?”

He rinsed the second to last pot and put it in his dish drainer.

“No child of Susana Ibarra would put pots in a dishwasher. Look, it took me until after med school to not completely wash my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, okay? I have heard people say that they put pots in the dishwasher, in the same way I’ve heard people say they didn’t have student loans or they drove to the Westside without traffic or they got a dirt-cheap plane ticket to Europe. All of those things seem imaginary to me, just in the same way putting my pots in the dishwasher would be.”

She wet a paper towel and wiped down his counters.

“I get it. Some things, we just can’t fight.”

When the pots were done, he slid the first two trays into the oven and looked over at Nik.

“While we wait, why don’t we . . .” Oh no. She still had sour cream on her face, but now it was dry and crusty. “Why don’t we . . .” He couldn’t laugh at her again; she’d kill him this time.

“Why don’t we what?” She moved over to him and put her hand on his. Just then, a big flake of sour cream fell off of her face and onto the floor.

That did it. He leaned against the sink, laughing so hard he couldn’t stand up straight.

“It’s still . . .” He took a deep breath so he could talk. “It’s still there! The sour cream! It’s just all white and flaky now! You look like you have a skin disease!”

She didn’t laugh. She just stared at him, until he got spooked and quieted down. Shit, he’d really pissed her off this time.

Finally, she moved closer to him.

“Carlos?” she asked.

“Yeah?” Oh no.

“Do you think I’m sexy?” And with that, she took the edge of the sheet of sour cream on her face and peeled it off in a big strip.

They laughed even harder this time than last time. Every time they would quiet down for a second, she would rub at her face and more disgusting white sour cream flakes would come off, and they’d both start back up again.

While they were still gasping with laughter, he heard the jingle of his ringtone. He pulled his phone out of his pocket. Jessie, probably calling to check on the status of her enchiladas.

“Hey, Jess!” he said, with laughter still in his voice. “Don’t worry, they’re in the oven. I’ll bring them over for your nice big freezer tom—”

“Carlos, I’m at the hospital. They’re saying I have to have the baby now. I’m scared.”

“What?” He’d never heard this panicked tone in Jessie’s voice before. “Back up, tell me what’s going on.”

He moved out of the kitchen into the living room.

“I took my blood pressure today, and it was high, so Jon and I came to the hospital. But I thought it would be okay, because that’s happened a few times in the last few weeks and they just gave me a few more tests and sent me home.” He could hear the tears in her voice. “But this time, after the other tests, they all looked really worried. Right now they’re deciding if they’re going to induce me or if I need to have an emergency C-section.”

At that she broke down.

“I didn’t want to have a C-section. I really wanted to . . . I had my birth plan ready so early. I knew just what I wanted to do . . . and I’m only thirty-four weeks; it’s too early. What if there’s something wrong with my baby?”

It broke his heart to hear Jessie cry like this. He wanted to cry just listening to her. Nik had come over to him, and without thinking, he reached for her hand. She wrapped her other arm around his waist.

“Jessie, where’s Jon? Where’s your mom? I’m coming. I’ll be there as fast as I can get there, okay?”

Nik squeezed his hand and tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her.

“Jon’s here. He’s calling his parents. I haven’t called Mom yet; I wanted to call you first.”

He nodded. The tension that had left his shoulders in the past two hours all fell back on them.

“Okay. Call your mom now. I’m on my way, okay? You or Jon call me if anything happens before I get there. I love you.”

She sniffed and took a breath.

“I love you, too. See you soon.”

When he hung up the phone, Nik put her arms around him. He sat down and pulled her onto his lap. He buried his head in her chest. Neither of them spoke.

***

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