Originally the point of this chapter was to show a little bit of how the bond between the two lovers was cemented. However, I just realized, in re-reading, that a couple of side stories that are happening are also being tied together here. I’m not sure this chapter would make sense at the beginning of the novel in that case. Anyway… this piece is rather long. It is buidling up to something. It just seems to take the scenic route. LOL!
Lunch was ready, finally. Alex called the boys to come in. She was setting the table and when she turned around she found Joseph standing behind her looking at her rather melancholy.
“Oh! Joseph! You startled me! Go wash up for lunch.”
“My hands are clean.”
“Joseph, you look sad. What’s wrong?”
Rosario understood English fairly well but she didn’t speak it all that much. However, she had been around long enough to understand Joseph. Alex had explained everything that happened to Rosario earlier. Rosario smiled and answered Alex in Spanish. She reminded Alex that she told him Matl would be waking up in an hour and more than an hour had passed. Matl had yet to wake up. Alex laughed and kissed him on the head.
“What she said.”
Joseph said softly pointing at Rosario. He was a natural when it came to languages and he picked up Spanish at a very early age. Alex had no choice now. It was time for lunch anyway. She took Joseph’s hand.
“Let’s go see if we can wake her up now. Okay?”
Joseph smiled and pulled Alex upstairs very excitedly. Alex opened the door gently. Matl was still sound asleep.
“Aww… She’s so peaceful.”
Joseph said softly. He was so impressed with her. He loved looking at her sleep and listening to her sounds as she slept. Sometimes there would be a soft murmuring sound she would make. Like a tender snoring sound. He loved it. She was a source of comfort to him.
“Can I please wake her up? I’ll be gentle.” He whispered.
“Alright, sweetie. Go ahead.”
Joseph put his book down and climbed in bed next to Matl. He put his face close to hers. He loved the warm feeling of her sweet breath on his face. He put his left hand on her, caressing her gently. He kissed her on her cheek very softly and he whispered…
“Wake up little Matl… wake up.”
She rubbed her eyes and did such a stretch. Joseph was impressed.
“That’s a really good stretch Matl! You’re going to get so tall!”
She exclaimed with a giggle as she turned to look at him. She put her little arms around him. It made Joseph very happy. He scooped her up from the bed. Matl kissed him twice on his right cheek. Alex was overcome. It was too adorable, too precious. Joseph was a very special boy. He was very unique. Joseph put Matl down gently. He always took great care in how he treated her. He kissed her on the forehead and fixed her shirt. Matl turned to her Mother’s sweet smile.
She exclaimed running towards her. Alex picked her up and kissed her all over her face. Joseph liked how Alex kissed her. He loved seeing Matl happy.
“Oh my precious girl! I love you so much. Did you have a good nap?”
“Yep. I have go potty now.”
“Okay, my darling.”
Joseph waited patiently as Alex helped Matl in the bathroom. He heard her giggle and it made him smile. He fixed her bed nicely just as it was in the morning after Alex fixed it. Alex walked out and she couldn’t help but smile wide. Such a special little boy. Matl ran to him happily and took his hand.
“Woosef! Mashrums… mashrums!”
“Yes. Mush-rooms… mush… mushrooms.”
“Matl why are you so cute?”
“I no cute… you cute Woosef!”
Alex laughed to hear their exchange. It was so sweet. So… sweet. Alex was impressed with how Matl remembered about the mushrooms. It seemed as though she expected Joseph to be there, waiting by her side when she woke up. Joseph knew her well. They had a strong bond.
“Okay, lovelies. You’ll have lunch first and then you can take her outside. Okay?”
“I eat taco and cheese! I hungry.”
“Cheese… hooray for cheese!”
Joseph exclaimed agreeing with her.
“Well… no tacos today. We’re having cucumber tomato salad, chicken and roasted potatoes. Strawberry shortcake for dessert.”
“No salad,” Matl said shaking her head.
“Matl you’re so cute!”
Joseph said caressing her cheek. He couldn’t help it. He was very sensitive and she touched his heart deeply. It was rare happiness, pure and unconditional. It was all Alex could do to keep from tearing up.
In the kitchen, the boys were already at the table. Joe and Angel got up quickly to kiss Matl. They loved her so much and spoiled her. Marcus didn’t want to show how he really felt but he couldn’t help it. He got up as well and kissed his sister. Matl giggled and slurped him on his chin.
“Ewe! Matl! That’s gross!”
Marcus said wiping his chin. The roar of laughter filled the space like a warm blanket. Even Marcus laughed after a while. It was a loving slurp. Jeremy picked his baby sister up and kissed her gently on the temple. She caressed him and put her head down on his shoulder. It was a tender moment that made Jeremy swallow. He had to take her in one breath before it was too late. He was so touched. Alex put her hand over her heart, melting a little at the sight of her oldest and her youngest embracing. It was so special for her to be able to be there with them all.
“Ready to eat little one?”
Jeremy asked as he sat her in her booster chair.
“Yep… I eat chicken and tatoes… no salad.”
“Salad is yummy right Joe?”
“Yeah… here Matl. Taste it.”
“No! No salad!”
Matl insisted shaking her head. Angel tried as well…
“Yes… eat your salad. If you eat your salad, you’ll get dessert.”
“Dessert. Dessert with chicken!”
She exclaimed and it made Joseph laugh out loud. He found her extremely cute as she persisted. He got up from his chair and turned to Alex.
“Can I sit next to Matl?”
Alex got up and moved his chair next to Matl’s. They were all quietly enjoying their lunch. Rosario sat with them. Alex was very happy. She loved these special moments. They were simple but so loving. It filled her heart with joy. Joseph kept looking at Matl pick at her tomato cucumber salad. He loved looking at her. She was a fascinating person that he couldn’t help but admire.
“Matl can you do this?”
Joseph asked her taking a fork full of cucumber tomato salad and putting it in his mouth.
She did exactly what Joseph did. Jeremy was impressed. Joe and Marcus laughed. Angel slapped his face with both his hands. “She only does what Joseph says!” He exclaimed. It was certainly clear Joseph had the magic touch with Matl. It made Joseph sigh and he leaned over to kiss her head.
“Salad… yummy salad!” She said finally eating all of it. She cleaned the entire plate.
“Yay!” Joseph exclaimed. How he enjoyed encouraging her. It made him feel good. Alex was so happy she forgot how tired she was. She cleared the lunch plates with Jeremy’s help and Rosario brought out the strawberry shortcake. Alex made it with puff pastry and it was a favorite in the Scott household. Matl especially loved it. Berries and cream. She did not hesitate to dig right in. She devoured it getting whipped cream all over the place. She extended her little right hand towards Joseph. It was full of whipped cream.
She giggled and opened her eyes wide to see her whole hand disappear into his mouth. Everyone laughed enjoying her reaction. Joe, however, had someone on his mind.
“Mom where’s Alexis?”
“She’s at a friend’s house right now. Your uncle will be picking her up later today.”
Joe was disappointed. Alexis had promised they could work on an art project together. Joe wondered if she would still come. Jeremy looked at Joe and smiled.
“Don’t worry. If she doesn’t come to help you, I will. Okay? It’ll be fun.”
Joe felt good when Jeremy would come to show him how to do things. They were close. Jeremy enjoyed playing father to him. Alex admired that about Jeremy and how he encouraged his brother.
“Okay,” Joe said quietly.
Across the table, a very jealous Marcus stared at Joseph playing with Matl. He wanted his best friend to play with him instead. He didn’t understand why Joseph liked Matl so much. She was clueless, slobbery and didn’t know much about anything.
“Woosef! No, no! Give me back, give me back!”
Matl demanded of Joseph. He had her entire little mouth in his mouth. However, Matl seemed to like it. She kept offering both hands one at a time and it made Joseph happy. He repeated the act enthusiastically bringing her to a giggling fit. She ended the attacks on her hands by throwing a strawberry at him. Her giggles turned into strong laughter as he pretended to fall back on the floor by it. Angel admired the routine wide-eyed and laughed out loud. Laughter inevitably ensued all around. It put a big smile on Joseph to hear Matl’s laugh and he got up to kiss her.
“Are you finished?” He asked as he calmed his laughter.
“Yep, yep… all done. Mommy all done! Woosef… take me to mashrums!”
Jeremy laughed but he was concerned about Matl. She wasn’t able to pronounce the J yet. It worried him.
“Mom – did the pediatrician say anything about Matl’s speech?”
The question caught Joseph’s interest.
“What’s wrong with her speech?” He asked.
“Speech, speech – speaking. Speak to me Woosef!”
Matl exclaimed as Alex cleaned her up.
“Oh, there is nothing wrong.”
Alex said looking at Joseph and winking at Jeremy.
“There’s nothing wrong? She can’t pronounce the J.” Jeremy retorted anxiously.
“Oh that. She’s only three. I think by the time she’s five she will get the J. I’m not worried. She’s so smart. She’ll get it. And… have you ever thought that maybe she likes to say ‘wa’ instead of ‘ja’? She’s very interesting that way.”
Joseph said firmly. His strong interjections did not sit well with Jeremy. However, Alex was impressed with Joseph. He was so encouraging and positive.
“Woosef – mashrums!”
“Auntie, can I take her out now? I’ll take good care of her.”
Marcus was not happy. Angel, on the other hand, was very curious about the mushrooms and he helped clean up after Matl. Joseph took Matl’s right hand while Angel took her left. Joseph was pleased that Angel decided to join them. He invited Marcus. But Marcus shook his head. “I’d rather puke!” He exclaimed storming off. Joe stopped him and told him to suit up for football practice. Marcus’ eyes lit up. He loved sports and especially football.
The day was perfect to investigate new discoveries. The sun was out, you could hear the birds chirping and there was a warm breeze that rustled the trees softly. Joseph loved days like these. They were the perfect days to play outside with Matl. Joseph led them towards the back of the yard between the Willow tree and the fig tree. There they were… seven perfectly formed mushrooms he had discovered the night before. Joseph gave Matl and Angel specific instructions not to touch the mushrooms. Angel nodded. Angel was amazed by the fungi. They were a little grey, he thought. He had never seen anything like them. Joseph explained how the previous rain had made the ground moist and how mushrooms liked moisture. The mushrooms were quite tall which Joseph found very unusual. Matl was not too pleased with the look of the tall looking things. She found them strange and scary.
“No, no, no Woosef… too scary. I no like mashrooms.”
“Awe… I’m sorry. But they won’t hurt you. They’re just different.”
Angel loved them. He sat down in front of them crisscross. He noticed a pattern and he mentioned it to Joseph.
“Wow! You’re right Angel, they do look like a fairy ring. I see the pores. You are so smart. Fascinating!”
“Not fastening! Scary!”
“Here, come sit with me. I’ll hold you while we look at them a while longer. You’re safe.”
Matl sat cautiously on Joseph’s lap. He put his arms around her and began to explain the complexity of the pattern and the unique umbrella shape. Matl kept her little hands together. She was nervous. Angel was getting too close to the mushrooms and Matl didn’t want him to touch them.
“No, no Anwel. Not closer!”
“Awe Matl… I’m okay. I won’t touch them. They’re just too interesting.”
Angel said smiling scooting closer to Joseph and Matl. Joseph started smelling Matl’s hair. He inhaled her scent and was comforted by the closeness between them. The mushrooms no longer occupied his mind. He smiled and squeezed Matl gently. She leaned back on him and relaxed her little head on his chest as she pointed at the mushrooms. She turned to look up at Joseph and kissed his cheek. Joseph leaned down and kissed her back.
“Matl you smell so nice. You’re so nice Matl. I love you.”
“Love you Woosef… you love me?”
“Yes. I do. You’re a sweet little person.”
“Awe… you love me too right Joseph?”
“Yes. I love you too. You’re like my brother.”
“Anwel is my bruhdder.”
Angel realized that Jeremy was right. Matl was having trouble with the “ja” sound. He wanted to help her.
“Matl say ‘ja’…”
“No say ‘ja… ja’”
Joseph laughed. He found her too adorable. He found the way Angel was trying with her very cute. It was nice to hear them this way. He enjoyed this closeness. For Joseph, it was a great comfort. It was like those times at school after working so hard, coming home to his Mom and his favorite snack. His mother hugging him and kissing him. Then running to see Matl. Holding her and teaching her things. It was pure joy for him. Angel decided he needed to take a closer look and it scared Matl. She jumped off Joseph and pulled Angel from his shirt. Angel let out a cough. The collar of his t-shirt chocked him a little. Marcus noticed from across the yard and ran to help but he hurt Matl pushing her down to the ground.
“No! You, silly baby! You’re hurting Angel!”
Joseph was worried as Matl started crying. Angel was confused. He wasn’t really hurt and he was afraid Marcus would hit him and Matl. Joseph picked Matl up dusting off some of the grass from her back. He checked her head and wiped her tears. Then he went off on Marcus like a hulk. Joe was running towards them now.
“You idiot! She was just worried about Angel! That was mean! I’m going to kill you!”
Joseph jumped on Marcus and began to punch him in the stomach several times. He didn’t really want to hurt Marcus and so the punches weren’t that strong. Marcus started laughing. But that stirred some anger in Joseph and he gave him a powerful punch in the face drawing some blood from his lip. It made Marcus angry but at the same time, he was enjoying Joseph’s attention. It was a strange feeling he had. He liked Joseph so much it didn’t matter that he was fighting with him. Angel took Matl by the hand and headed towards the house. Matl was teary-eyed and calling for Joseph. Joe checked on them before going to pull Joseph off Marcus. He told Angel to get Alex. Marcus was still laughing holding Joseph off. They began to roll around in a struggle. Joseph was becoming obsessed and started to choke Marcus. Joe pulled him off just in time. Marcus laughed coughing and struggling to catch his breath.
“You’re so weak! That didn’t even hurt!” Marcus exclaimed laughing.
Joseph started to cry. He didn’t like fighting and he didn’t like Marcus making fun of him. Alex ran to the scene.
“Boys what is happening!”
“I think Marcus did something that made Joseph upset,” Joe said trying to hold a wiggling Joseph back. Alex came down on her knees and lifted Marcus up looking at him straight in the eyes.
“Marcus stop laughing and tell me what happened.”
“He pushed Matl to the ground. He’s a horrible brother!” Joseph exclaimed wiping his tears. Alex shook her head.
“Okay… first thing’s first… You boys are going to wash up and you both are grounded until your Father comes to pick you up Joseph and you Marcus until Monday. I’m not having this friction. You need to call me when there is a problem. Don’t take it upon yourselves to resolve something if you don’t know how to behave! Marcus… you need to be careful with Matl and Joseph you need not worry so much. Marcus may have pushed her but he wouldn’t hurt his sister.”
“He did too hurt her! She cried!”
“Mom you’re not going to convince him otherwise. It’s so strange how he loves Matl so much.”
“Matl is my best friend!”
“I thought I was your best friend,” Marcus said sadly now.
“No! You’re a monster and I don’t like you anymore!”
“Joseph that is very severe language coming from you.”
Alex said a little taken aback. Joe had a big smile. He found all of this very amusing. Joseph was very dramatic and Marcus’ toughness was soft around the edges. He was an oxymoron of emotions.
“I don’t want to be friends with anybody who wants to hurt Matl.”
“Friends are friends even when they make mistakes Joseph. We should forgive them. Matl is okay. Don’t you ever have arguments with Alexis.”
“No. She beats me. I can’t hit her back because she’s a girl and she’s my sister.”
Alex gasped and looked at Joe. She wiped Marcus’ lip shaking her head.
“You’ll be alright sweetie. Now go into the house and wash up. Joe, you too please.”
Alex was concerned now about this little boy. This interesting and unique little boy. She walked him to the patio and they sat down on the lounger. Alex looked into his deep blue eyes still a little sad.
“Joseph… does Alexis hurt you?”
“Sometimes when she’s not happy. Mom gives her rules she doesn’t like and she punches me.”
“Does your Mom know?”
“I’m not telling because she’ll punch me again.”
“How many times has she done it.”
“All the time since like birth.”
He said sarcastically. He lifted his little shirt and he turned around showing Alex a few bruises. It shocked her to see him all bruised up. She couldn’t believe Alexis was capable of such a thing. And Joseph… he was such a sweet boy.
“Joseph! Did Alexis do this to you?”
Joseph nodded and leaned on Alex. She put her arm around him and kissed his head.
“This is serious. Why haven’t you told your parents?”
“I don’t want her to get in trouble. She only does it when she’s upset. I’m getting stronger and sometimes it doesn’t really hurt.”
“Oh, my darling boy. No one has the right to hurt you this way. Not even your sister. It is not something you should let happen. I know you love her but you need to know that by letting her get away with this you’re as much at fault as she is. It’s like you’re hurting her and yourself by not telling. You understand?”
“I understand. But Mom is very strict and I don’t like it when she punishes Alexis. It makes Alexis hate me. She says Mom and Dad like me better.”
“Oh boy! Well… let me tell you that it is impossible for parents to love one child more than the other. Impossible to do. Our children are all the same. Alexis is mistaken. We love them all the same. I’m going to have to tell your Dad when he gets here. I will not have anyone hurt you anymore, even if I have to fight them off myself.”
Joseph smiled. It felt good to talk to her. She was gentle and loving with him. He liked her a lot. Sometimes he wished she was his Mother and then he could be close to Matl all the time. It was a sweet dream that he kept to himself. Alex had a bad taste in her mouth. Her best friends needed her. She felt horrible that this had been going on under their noses. She knew Alexis was a little rebellious but she had no idea how badly she was treating Joseph. Joseph. His name reminded her of her father and his sweet gentle ways. He and Joe were truly worthy of the name. The thought lingered in her mind as she tried to put all the pieces of the current dilemma together.
©2019 Mel Gutiér