It was time for Luis to return to San Antonio. Janie had invited Josh to come and eat with them before they had to leave. He arrived holding a huge bouquet of yellow and orange chrysanthiums.
“Mrs Rivera, I’m sorry, I hope these are okay. I thought since it was October I’d go with a seasonal choice. It was this or a bunch of decorative corn.”
“Don’t be silly, these are lovely. Mums are actually my favorite type of flower.”
“No, they’re not. Are they really?” Josh looked sceptical.
Lucy smiled,“She’s seriously not kidding. I’ve never heard anyone else say that, but mom loves mums, always has. Here let me put them in water for you mom. Josh, this was sweet. “
Janie took a big whiff of the bouquet’s spicy scent before Lucy took it from her and left the room to find a vase.
“Hey Lucy, thanks. And thank you for inviting me today Mrs. Rivera.”
“Of course, we owe you so much for bringing and taking Luis back. Come in, let me take your jacket and just make yourself at home, okay?” Janie gestured for Josh to come further into the room.
Josh shifted uncomfortably and rubbed the back of his neck,“Okay, um Mrs. Rivera, I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“We are getting by, thank you. Go sit, Julian should be in the den, right through there.”
“And Josh, please call me Janie, okay?”
Dinner had been Janie’s specialty, chipotle enchiladas, spanish rice and beans. Everyone had eaten until they couldn’t eat one more bite. They all sat back in their chairs and looked at the empty casserole dishes fondly.
“Wow, Mrs… I mean Janie, you sure can cook. I couldn’t eat one more bite but if you had more I think I’d try.”
“Thank you Josh, Lucy worried it might be too spicy but it’s one of our favorite dishes, we wanted to share it with you.”
“No, no I like spicy anyway, but I think those enchiladas had a very nice heat to them. It didn’t shock and it lingers for a while afterward, that’s my favorite kind of heat. The sauce went really well with the cheese, it’s queso blanco isn’t it? They were very good.”
Lucy laughed “Josh I think if we didn’t already know that you wrote restaurant reviews for a living, we’d be able to guess it from that.”
“Sorry, professional hazard, I guess. But really these were fantastic.”
“Okay Josh, quit sucking up. “Luis grinned as he said it though, he was happy that his friend fit in so well with his family. His first year in the big city would’ve been a nightmare without Josh. They had met through an ad Josh had put up looking for a roommate, but they had clicked right away. Luis already counted Josh as one of his very best friends.
“So Josh, how did you find the state park after all?”
“It was great. I’m definitely going to try camping out there next time. The hiking trails are really something, Lucy you do not know what you are missing.”
Julian laughed and looked from Josh to his daughter who blushed slightly, “Camping, hiking? Not our Lucy, she’s not really the outdoor type.”
“Dad! I could camp or hike as well as any of you guys could!”
“Ha, that’s not saying much. No, but it really is fun, we’ve gone hiking and camping in the small towns near San Antonio a couple of times. I like it better than I ever would have thought I would.”said Luis
“When I bring Luis back you should join us Lucy.”
“When you bring Luis back?”asked Lucy
Luis threw Josh an annoyed look, “I’ve been thinking about it and I’m going to move back here for a while.”
Janie’s lips tightened, “Luis, no, you can’t do that you need to finish school.”
“Mom I will finish school, don’t worry about that. I just think I should take a little time off until things go back to normal, you know.”
“Luis, you will not be coming back home, I am sorry. We would love you here again, but your education is very important, I couldn’t let you do this.”
“No. You two come back and visit on your next break, I’ll even send you some gas money, but you will go back to school.” Janie’s word was final, there was no point discussing it further.
“Promise me that you will take care of mom.” Luis handed a dish to Lucy as he spoke, he had volunteered to do the dishes and Lucy said that she would dry them.
In her mother’s bright kitchen it was hard to remember that everything in their lives was cheerful and good. She could hear Josh in the front room cracking jokes and her mother’s clear laughter answering them.
“You know that I will take care of momma the best that I can.”
Lucy didn’t have to say that Luis questioning her about this made her feel hurt, he knew right away.
“Lucy, don’t get all defensive, I know that you will. I just think that mom is feeling all of this more than she lets on. Maybe you can’t see it but I was shocked when I saw her, she looks like she’s aged ten years since the last time I was here.”
Lucy looked up at her brother; he himself looked to have done a lot of growing up this past year. He had always been taller than her but he was no longer lanky, his shoulders had become broad and his face had filled in. She wouldn’t have called him buff exactly, but he looked healthy, he looked strong. His new physique suited his olive skin color and jet black hair. The changes in him made her feel further divided from him, he had turned into a man and she felt like a frightened little girl.
“It’s been a hard year on her Luis, but she’ll pull through it all and I will look after her, you don’t have to worry about that.”
“I know, now hurry up slow poke you have a pile of dishes to catch up on!” Luis ruffled her hair with his wet hand and left the kitchen chuckling about it before she could retaliate.
Lucy felt divided. She knew what her mother had said was right but she also knew that she missed her brother a great deal. She had felt like a part of herself had been missing ever since he moved away. Their parting from each other was bittersweet. They all hugged a great deal and promised that it wouldn’t be too long at all before they were together again, Janie tried to not cave though she kept feeling like she could at any moment.
“Lucy, it was nice to meet you.” Josh came over to her while Luis was finishing up his goodbyes with their parents.
“It was good to meet you too, Josh. We are lucky; I mean Luis is lucky to have you in his life.”
“Hey, I meant what I said, okay? You better try camping out with us if the weather doesn’t get too bad, yea?”
“Yea, okay. Hopefully I won’t slow you down.” Lucy had to look up at Josh as she spoke to him and he had to look down at her. It was cozy inside the arch they formed and they were probably closer to one another then they necessarily had to be.
“I’d love to have you there, Lucy.”
As her brother and Josh drove away Lucy looked after their car. Josh drove up to the stop sign and then stopped and honked three times. Lucy waved and smiled.
“I’d love to have you there.” Josh had said.
She hoped this wouldn’t be trouble.