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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “His/hers”

His hand engulfed her smaller one, but he only squeezed it gently. “You have to go talk to her, Carisa,” Carlos told her.

Carisa shook her head. “She doesn’t want to talk to me. I already told you that.”

Carlos sighed and leaned back, sitting against the edge of his desk. He muttered something in Spanish she couldn’t quite make out. It hadn’t been allowed in their house, but that had never stopped Carlos. None of her father’s rules had really ever stopped Carlos. He’d still turned out to be a pretty good man.

She’d tried to follow every rule, and what had it gotten her? Absolutely nothing. So, maybe Carlos had always had the right of it.

“You’re being foolish,” he said. “The both of you. I’ve seen the two of you together. It’s right. Pushing each other away isn’t going to do any good. Why can’t you just learn from my mistakes?”

Her lips twitched up. “Hey, you got the girl anyway,” she reminded him. “And now you have the perfect little family.”

“And almost got her killed in the process. You always forget that part. Everyone does, but I can’t. Trust me, you don’t want that weight on you. Jayla won’t, either.”

“She doesn’t want me,” Carisa said. “So, it doesn’t matter anyway.”

“You know that isn’t true. She’s just scared. From what you told me, she has every reason to be.”

“Then why won’t she let me help?”

“Foolish, like I already said. But, it can be hard to see that when your heart’s involved.”

Carisa shook her head. It seemed like the only heart that was involved was hers.

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Today’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt was to use “his/her(s) in the post. Bonus points for starting with one and ending with the other. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the other in at the end, but I managed it. This fits right in with where I’m at in Whatever It Takes.

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “Sign”

“I’d take that as a sign,” Carlos said.

“Sign of what?” Carisa asked, looking up at her older brother. He was leaning against her table but not looking at her. She followed his gaze and saw Jayla walking into the restaurant, trailed by two young men and a girl. She knew the girl, Alexa, but not the two boys.

“Jayla doesn’t come down here,” he said. “Not around anyone from her past, except Jared. And that’s because he gave her a job at the clinic. She certainly doesn’t bring her siblings.”

“Obviously she does if they’re here,” Carisa said, ducking her head so her brother hopefully wouldn’t notice her cheeks flaming.

He only chuckled, though. “That’s just what I’m saying, Carisa. You ever tell her you spend most every day here after work.”

She felt the temperature in her cheeks climb higher. “No,” she said finally. “But, I did tell Alexa about it one day when I was working with her at the youth center.”

“And she told her big sister, maybe even mentioned your name. And here they are.”

“It doesn’t mean anything, Carlos. They need to eat like anyone else.”

“But, never here. Not before. And that’s just what I’m saying. And she’s risking the younger sibling’s foster mother’s ire by bringing them around someone like me. I’d say that’s another sign.”

“Sign of what?” she asked again. She didn’t know what had gotten into her brother lately, but he kept saying stuff like this. Just because he was happily married now with a new baby didn’t mean everyone was cut out for that.

“Sign that she wants to be with you. Maybe it’s one you should start heeding.”

She shook her head and turned back to the paper she was grading. She didn’t need to start heeding any signs. It would probably be better if she avoided them at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh, Carisa. No don’t avoid those signs. Your brother knows what he’s talking about. 😀

This week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt was to use “sign” any way we’d like. And the first line of this popped into my head. So, I went with it.

SOCS/Story a Day: Day 20 – “All or Nothing”

“All I was asking,” Carisa said, “was what made you buy this place. It wasn’t a judgment, Carlos. I’m just curious.”

Her brother relaxed slightly. She really hadn’t meant for the question to sound judgmental, but that was apparently how it had come out. Or at least how he had heard it. Did he really still think she was so much like her father? She’d have thought he’d have known better by now.

“Before I bought this place,” Carlos said, “I was working as a cook at another restaurant. Aberto hired a lot of people just out of prison. Gave ’em a chance. One chance. If you screwed up, broke one of his rules, you were gone. Roman and Cristine knew him and helped get me a job as a dishwasher there when I was released. Roman had already done enough by getting me a very reduced sentence. This was so much more than what he had to do.”

“Because Tereza asked him to help you. And he promised to do what he could as long as she didn’t see you again.” She knew that part of the story.

His lips curled up a little. “Yeah. It was smart. We would have ruined each other back then.” But, he ran a thumb over the ring on his left hand. They were married now and so happy. She was happy for her brother. Even if she was a little jealous, too.  “Anyway, Aberto was killed in a drive-by and his place shut down. I’d been thinking of opening my own place by that time, and Cristine helped me get started.”

“I know all that, Carlos. What I was wondering, why this place? This neighborhood. Isn’t this where you grew up?” It had to hold hard memories for him to deal with. It did for her, and she’d been young when her father had moved their mother, her and her only remaining sister to another city.

“That’s why. And I wanted to continue what Aberto had been doing. I was given a second chance, so I wanted to give that to others, too. And this place was available and in my budget.” His lips curled up even more at that. “You should have seen it. It was only a step above being condemned. It took a lot of work, but I turned it into this.”

“And it’s a good place.” She’d seen the good he’d done here, the people he’d helped. It wasn’t enough for her father to ever forgive him, but he was holding a grudge against Carlos that wasn’t his fault. So nothing would ever be enough.

He gave her a quick hug. “Thanks, little sis. I’d better get back in the kitchen or no one else will think so.”

She smiled as he did just that. She was so glad she’d re-connected with her brother, even if it had taken another death to do so. One had ripped them apart and one to bring them back together. But, nothing would take her from his life again. Nothing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I combined Story a Day and Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompts again. Story a Day was to focus on worldbuilding. So I decided to go with how Carlos did come to have his restaurant. And for Stream of Consciousness was to use all or nothing, Use one or both and bonus points if you start and end with one(or each) of them.

Story a Day: Day 18 – Refusal

“We’re not your family.” Carisa flinched at the words, even though they hadn’t been aimed at her. She chanced a glance over at her brother, the man she hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years. She only had vague memories of him, most of them likely influenced by her older sister’s stories. “You took one daughter from me,” her father continued. “Don’t even think I’m going to let you have a relationship with the others. I don’t care how much you claim you’ve changed. You’re still the punk kid you’ve always been.”

The words made Carisa want to cry. She couldn’t imagine how Carlos felt. She’d only been four when the oldest of her sisters had been killed. He’d been nineteen. But, he wasn’t the one who had killed her. She did know that much. Yet her father had always blamed him.

She took a step toward them, but the knot that always seemed to sit in her chest tightened and her hands shook as more angry words passed between the two men. She tried to drag in more air, but everything still felt too tight. She had to get out of here. She’d never been able to stand up to her father anyway. Why would now be any different?

She turned away from the group gathered at the graveside. The other brother she’d never really known had just been buried, but all she could think was that she had to get away. She couldn’t take anymore. She’d wanted to reconnect with Carlos, but not like this.

Maybe it was better this way. It’s not like it would change anything anyway.

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Today’s Story a Day prompt was to write a story where instead of accepting the challenge that takes them into the story, they turn away. This moment actually happens at the end of Shed Some Light(which is Carlos’ story). Except originally Carisa does combat her anxiety and faces her father, standing up for her brother. And they do re-connect. It causes problems with her father and she ends up moving closer to Carlos to have a relationship with her brother. Which wouldn’t have happened if she really did just turn away. Neither would the events of her story(which I’m still figuring out).

Story a Day: Day 17

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.

SOCS/Story a Day: Day 13 – “Language”

“You could at least speak in a language I know,” Carisa said. “Then I would misunderstand what you’re saying.”

Carlos smiled at her. “You sound like Brent.” A sadness washed over his face then. He was still taking their brother’s loss hard. She’d  barely known him, though. Had barely known Carlos, either, since her father had refused to let him have any contact after her older sister, Adriane, had been killed. But, she was all grown up and could make her own decisions now.

Her dad really hadn’t liked that.

She’d already lost half her siblings. She wasn’t going to let her father keep her from another one. Even if that meant her dad barely spoke to her now. She was used to his tantrums. He’d get over it.

“What’s going on, Isa?” he asked, resting his hands on the table beside her. She had vague memories of him calling her that when she was younger, though he’d been out of their lives since before she was three. So, she’d convinced herself she’d made them up. No one else had ever called her that, either.

“Nothing,” she said softly. She didn’t even know if something was going on, so how would she explain it to him?

“You sure?” he asked, settling into a chair at the table.

He hadn’t judged her for any of the choices she’d made so far, but still she hesitated. This was different. And she really didn’t know I there was anything to talk about. So, she just said, “Yeah, I’m sure. What are you making me for lunch today?”

He laughed and leaned over to kiss the top of her head. “I’ll be back with it.”

She watched him leave then ran her hands over her face. She’d have to figure this out on her own. But, she would figure it out.

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Combining my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post with today Story a Day again. The SOCS prompt was to use “language” any way you like. For story a day it was to use a moment of misapprehension. This actually comes after that. Carisa is Carlos’ youngest half-sister. And I just started plotting out her story(which doesn’t have a title yet and I won’t be writing until probably October). I have an idea of what it is she’s trying to figure out, but I’ll keep that quiet for now. 😉

Story a Day: Day 25 – Believe in You

Today’s prompt was to change the POV of one of our previous stories. Since, I’ll be working on Carlos & Tereza’s story once again, I decided to do one of those ones. This one is some backstory that takes place about 20 years before the actual story. I wrote it in third person the first time, but switched it to first here and got into Carlos’ head a bit more.

I dropped the silverware on top of the rest of the dishes in the bus pan. Gathering up the rest of the trash from the table, I balled it all up together so it would be easier to throw away when I got to the kitchen. I gave a little shake of my head. They had certainly left a mess. I’d noticed most didn’t seem to care who would have to come by later and clean up after them.

I lifted the pan and turned from the table, my shoulders getting that itchy feeling between them, the hairs on my neck prickling. People were watching. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t let it matter. I took a deep breath and kept walking through the dining room.

It was nothing. People could look all they wanted. It didn’t mean a thing. I heard all the whispers anyway. They saw my tattoos and automatically assumed they knew everything about me. I must be some kind of thug, had probably done prison time, was likely dangerous and shouldn’t be working here.

I just wished it wasn’t all true.

I shouldered my way through the doors into the kitchen, dropping the pan on the shelf by those doors for the dishwasher to get to. The kid beside the sink jerked his head at me in greeting, but I only grunted back. I still didn’t know his name. I hadn’t bothered with any of that unless I needed to.

I’d only been here for about three weeks, and I knew it wasn’t the strength of my experience or references that got me the job. I didn’t have much of either of those. Only one reference had really mattered. Roman’s. And he’d done more than get me this job. If it wasn’t for him, I would have spent more than the one month in jail. And I would have this, or likely any, job. I wasn’t going to screw up that chance. Even if it was only to clear tables and wash dishes.

Even if I did still miss Tereza and Roman wouldn’t tell me anything except she was settling into her life with them.

I turned to grab another tub so I could clean yet another table off, but as I straightened again, I nearly collided with someone else. My first impulse still was to slam a fist into his face and pull a knife from my belt. Both would get me fired. The second would also, if I even carried one on me, get me sent back to jail.

I couldn’t afford either option.

I only let my lip curl at the tattoo of a wild cat on the other man’s bicep. Fuckin’ Pumas.

“Sorry,” I mumbled. Dios, that word tasted bitter on my tongue. I wasn’t really, but our boss had strict rules about fighting in the kitchen. I wasn’t risking my job for this pendejo.

The other man, Romello, sneered at me. “Just like a cowardly Coyote.”

I bristled at the words but picked up the bus pan I’d dropped during the collision and kept walking. It wasn’t worth it. I needed this job, this new start. The Pumas had taken enough from me, I couldn’t let them have this as well. So, I ignored the words meant to taunt me and walked back out into the dining room to clear another table.

***

I stepped out of the restaurant after clocking out and saw the three men waiting for me. One was little more than a boy, really, but Romello, the pendejo, had roped him in anyway. Romello himself stood right in the middle of them.

Great. Just great. Looked like we’d be fighting about this after all. I could always run, but I’d never done that before. And they’d just chase after me anyway.

I balled my fists and took a step forward. “What do you want? I was just goin’ home.”

“To your hovel, you mean?” Romello scoffed.

I doubted if his place was much, if any, better than my tiny apartment. But, I let the words pass. I really did just want to go home. “I don’t got a beef with you. I’m just trying to start a new life, like you. I just want to be left alone.”

Romello sneered at me again. “You’re nothing like me. You’re a Coyote.”

“Not anymore.” The words felt like a lie. Sure, I didn’t run with the gang any longer, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop feeling like a part of it.

Romello’s lip curled further, until he was nearly snarling. “You still ain’t washed the stink off.” Then, he was swinging at me.

I ducked the first punch, but the second caught me in the shoulder. I stumbled but found my footing quick enough. But the other two were on me a moment later. I got a few blows in myself, but I couldn’t fight off all three at once. I hit the ground but jumped right back to my feet. I wasn’t going down without one hell of a fight.

They meant to kill me. I could feel it in each of their strikes. I wasn’t just going to give up on this new life I’d been given.

I hit the ground again. I tried to get back up, but a boot connected with my ribs. More blows fell, stealing my breath, and I heard the snick of a knife opening. Then, sirens split the air, and the other men scattered. I got my knees under me and grabbed onto the closest thing I could find, a sign post, to get to my feet.

A hand closed around my arm. I tried jerking away, but metal snapped around my wrist before I could. The man’s words were barely more than a buzz in my head, but the actions were all too familiar to me. And my head was spinning too much to resist even if I’d planned to.

***

“You’re damn lucky they held you instead of taking you straight to booking.”

I held my head in my hands, not even looking up at Roman. I didn’t feel too lucky about anything right now. The cops who had brought me in had slapped a Band-Aid over the cut on my forehead but that was it. My head was splitting, my ribs nearly screaming in agony, but I was stuck in this damn holding cell. The only lucky thing I could see was that when Romello and his buddies had been hauled in too, they’d been put in a separate cell.

“I didn’t start the fight, Roman. Romello and his buddies were waiting for me outside. He’s always baiting me.”

“That’s why you ignore him. I thought you wanted this job.”

“I do!” More pain shot through my head, and I drew back, digging the heels of my hands into my temples. Dios. How hard had I hit my head? “And  know, I probably lost it now.”

“If there weren’t witnesses who gave the same story as you, that would probably be true.”

At a gesture from Roman, a guard stepped forward and unlocked the cell door. The loud whine of it opening nearly had my head exploding. I squeezed my eyes shut as if that would help ward off the inevitable.

“Come on,” Roman said softly. “I’ll take you home. You’ll have to talk to Aberto in the morning about the job.”

I couldn’t think too much about that right now. Not when my head was splitting open and my ribs were on fire as I followed Roman out of the police station. Aberto’s place was known for giving released cons a second chance. He wasn’t known for giving ones for breaking his rules, though.

I just hoped he’d make an exception this time.

***

I stepped into the restaurant and winced at the bright lights. Roman had taken me by the hospital the night before. Head contusions and a couple cracked ribs. He’d stuck around until this morning, to make sure I woke up again. He really made sure of that, too, waking me several times during the night and asking me questions. When I flipped him off each time, he just laughed and left my bedroom again. Guess that was a sign to him my brain wasn’t too rattled.

They’d wrapped my ribs at the hospital and given me something for the headache, but it only helped so much. And these damn lights certainly didn’t.

Roman had said he’d already talked to Aberto this morning, so he’d be waiting for me. Now, I just had to plead my case. I knocked on the doorframe of the office even though the door was open, and my boss watched me approach. No point in taking any chances. Certainly not this morning.

“Come in, Armas,” my boss called out to me.

I stepped into the office and licked my lips, wishing they weren’t so dry. “Mr. Aberto-”

He held up a hand, and I came to an instant stop. I had to shove my hands in my pockets to keep him from seeing the way they trembled. I didn’t want to show any weakness now.

“You know I don’t allow any fighting in or around my restaurant.”

“Yes, sir.” I could barely get the words out. My throat and tongue felt so thick, I felt like there wasn’t room for anything else. “I can explain.”

“No explanation needed.”

My shoulders drooped at those words. That was it then. It was all over for me. I started to turn away but Aberto’s next words stopped me.

“I’ve seen the way you and Romello have been. And I’ve seem how you’ve handled it. I also talked to the person who reported the fight last night and said you were the one assaulted. I imagine you didn’t see any way around the fight.”

I shook my head. “Figured if I ran, they would’ve just chased me down.”

Aberto nodded as if he’d expected that. “Charges have been pressed. Romello will no longer have a job here.”

I swallowed hard. “And me, sir?” If I lost this job, I wasn’t sure what I’d do.

“Well,” he said, his lips curling up slightly, “I’m going to have an open position for a server. I’ve seen you’re a hard worker and seem determined to make your place here.”

I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. “Why?” I shouldn’t be questioning it. Shouldn’t risk him realizing he was making a mistake and change his mind.

“I see something in you,” Aberto said. “And I believe in the things I see. I believe in you, Carlos, and you should believe in you, too. Now, get on home and rest up. We can start your training tomorrow.”

 

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