Carisa stepped into the restaurant and looked around. She didn’t see her brother around anywhere, so he was probably back in the kitchen. Either that or his office. This place ran smoothly, and she figured there had to be a reason for that. Maybe it should come as a surprise, for the man who her father always claimed was a waste of space.
She shook her head a little at that. Her father refused to see all the ways Carlos had changed since he’d been a boy. He’d made mistakes and bad decisions, but he was a good man now. She just wasn’t sure her father would ever let himself see that.
She knew he wouldn’t mind if she stuck her head in the kitchen and let him know she was here. He’d probably even come out to join her if he wasn’t too busy. Instead she slipped into her usual table in the corner like any other customer would do. Of course, the waitress recognized her. So she imagined her brother would be out here soon anyway.
She looked around at the other tables and recognized some of the other regulars. Like Leo and Bryan, and their son, Isaiah. She couldn’t help smiling at the little boy, who didn’t look like either of his fathers. They’d adopted him when he’d still been an infant, and the love between them was so obvious. She’d never felt that from even her one father.
She knew he’d argue about that, he’d always been there, had never hit them, hadn’t abandoned them. He’d also never wanted to spend much time with his daughters, had exacting standards for their dress, behavior, schooling. And if they didn’t meet those standards even once, he didn’t let them forget. And insisted it meant they’d turn out like their brothers.
Right, because she got a B in one class meant she’d go out and join a gang.
She knew he’d taken Adriane’s death hard. But, that hadn’t been Carlos’ fault, not the way her father had always made it out to be. And certainly not a reason to abandon him and forbid her or her sister to ever speak to him again. She was glad she’d stopped obeying that one. It had been too late to get to know her other brother, Brent. But, she could have a relationship going forward with the brother she had left.
And here he came now, carrying her usual drink. He greeted Leo and Bryan, stopping long enough to tickle the boy in the high chair before continuing to her table. “Vanesa said you were here. It’s been a couple weeks since you stopped in. What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I spent the last couple weeks of summer vacation visiting mom and Analise.” By the narrowing of his eyes, he’d noticed she hadn’t mention her father. He didn’t ask either.
“How are they?”
“Good. They want me to move back home. But, I like my job at the school here. A lot better than that private school Dad got me my first job at. I feel like I’m actually doing some good here.”
He smiled. “Then stay.”
“I plan to. It was just stressful having them argue about my life like they got a say. I wanted to come see you and be where I didn’t feel judged for my decisions.”
He smiled at her, looking pleased. “Do you know what you want? I’ll get it and join you for lunch.”
She was definitely glad she’d come here. Carlos never made her feel less than for the things she wanted. No matter what they were.