September 4th, 2024
Sofia tapped on the door with a knuckle.
“Come on in.” Lisa’s voice came through muffled.
Carmen was pacing around the room, both hands pressed against her back. Her eyes were clenched shut and her chin was tilted to the ceiling. Lisa had a hand on her shoulder and a hand on her elbow, guiding her around the room.
Sofia grimaced a little, drawing her hand to her arm, sending up a muffled clattering from her picnic basket, and running a thumb in the groove of her marble shoulder. “Is this a bad time? I can come back later.”
“No, no, gorda, you’re fine,” Carmen said, her voice tight. “You’re nnnngh… catching the tail end of this one.”
Well… Carmen wasn’t really one to say it was okay if it wasn’t. So… Sofia settled in for some serious cheerleader duty.
She carefully set aside the massive flower bouquet and placed the picnic basket on the counter. “Sasha gave me some time away from cleanup, and it’s about dinnertime so I got some food.” She opened it. “Not sure what you can and can’t eat, so I brought a little bit of everything. Sandwich fixings, wide noodles, thin noodles, broth, tamales, oatcakes, goat cheese, fruits, veggies, rice, dumplings, a couple churros, some chocolate.”
“Ugh. I’m sorry, Sofie,” said Carmen, easing her hands from her back. “I really wish any of that sounded good right now.”
“Little bites of noodles, or at least a couple sips of broth,” Lisa gently urged. “You have time, and you’ll need the extra energy.”
Carmen’s shoulders drooped. “Gods, Lisa, you make this sound like this’ll be hard or something.” There was a glimmer of humor in her attempt, even if it felt mostly drowned by La… by everything else.
Lisa merely offered her a small smile and guided her to have a seat on the bed. “Miracle of life, Carmen,” she said, with a quirk of her lips.
Sofia, meanwhile, took the cue and started pulling out food and a couple plates, piling on samples of everything. She pushed her cheer forward. “Hey, miracles are nothing new to us, right? Should be pretty simple, compared to some of the other stuff you’ve done!”
The expected retort didn’t come. Sofia turned and approached, moving to give one plate to Lisa and set the other plate on the bed beside Carmen. “See, that’s when you say…” Hm. She had to think about this one. Oh, there! “’Thanks, gorda. I’ll remember that for when you’re in this position.’”
“I’m sorry, Sofie.” The look that Carmen gave her was so worn out and red-rimmed that cracks formed in Sofia’s resolve. She nearly abandoned the plates to wrap her in a hug.
“You plan on being in this position?” Lisa asked, seating herself beside Carmen and taking the dishes from Sofia’s hands.
“I didn’t mean—” Sofia hesitated, glancing at Lisa. Lisa gave her a small, wan smile of encouragement, took a bite of food and then nodded, prompting her to continue. She changed tack. “Well, not anytime soon, of course.” She rubbed her hand against the back of her neck. “There’s a lot to do first before I want to even begin seriously considering it.”
Lisa lifted her chin a little, swallowing her food. “So you weren’t traumatized at the tender age of eight, when I had Ruben?” she asked dryly.
Sofia shrugged a shoulder. “Even if I was, I’d only have to relive that for… what, one or two days?” She turned her gaze to the side a little. “Then there’d be plenty more after that where I’d get to do the fun part.”
Carmen wearily raised an eyebrow. “’The fun part,’” she repeated emphatically, pushing forth the innuendo with a tired tone.
Sofia rolled her eyes a little. “Alright. I walked into that one.” She offered Carmen a little smile, though, to show she was being a good sport. “But I meant the whole raising them thing. I know it’s not all sunshine and roses, but… you know, you get to play with them, call them silly nicknames, dress them up, sing them songs, tell them stories, teach them how to talk and walk, measure them every year once they’re willing to stand still long enough…”
The beginnings of an actual, real smile cornered Carmen’s lips. After a moment she gave Lisa a look that seemed the slightest bit like her normal self. “She’s not blushing, Lisa.”
Lisa adjusted her glasses as if to get a better look. “Wonder of wonders.”
This time it was Sofia’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Oh, c’mon. If talk about sex embarrassed me, either you, Paige, Jeff, Coyote, or Moe would’ve made me burst into flame a long time ago.”
Lisa politely stifled her smile.
Carmen nodded a little in concession. Then, after a couple moments’ silence, she spoke again. “For the record, Sofie, I think you and Alvaro would make adorable babies.”
Oh no. A blush furiously heated her face, completely proving her wrong. “That’s not—we’re not—I mean—we’ve never—it’s only been—we’d have to—”
Carmen’s smile found a little bit more strength, taking the rest of Sofia’s halted protests from her. “Sometimes it’s just too easy.” She pushed the plate aside and patted the bed in invitation. “C’mere, gorda.”
Sofia eagerly obliged, ready to move on from the previous conversation. Carmen leaned against her and squeezed her a little with one arm. “Gods, Sofia. Es encantador. Os quiero mucho.” Her voice broke at the end, her mouth twisted, her grip tightened, and she quickly turned and pressed her face into Sofia’s shoulder. Small cracks shot through Sofia, leaking hot, painful grief. She wrapped her arms around Carmen.
Lisa rose and rubbed Carmen’s back soothingly before nodding to Sofia. “I’ll go see if I can find Susan or Moe.” She leaned in and said, “Have some food when you’re ready, okay?” With one last shoulder squeeze, she rose and left.
“_Os quiero mucho, manita,_” Sofia murmured, after the door closed. When Carmen’s breathing started to even out again, she added, “You’ll do great. And I can’t wait to see La Muchacha.”