"He can't be serious," Maritza argued. "Everything was working so well. Why would he want to change it?"
Haley shook her head briefly.
Haley grabbed a plate, handing it to Maritza. "He doesn't hate you," she argued. She grabbed two more plates and headed over to the breakfast table. "Come on, Rach, come eat."
"Exactly what Haley suggested!" Rachel cooed. "I'm going to remind him exactly what he's been missing!"
Rachel jumped up and hurried to the stairs. "I need to get ready! Oooo... this is going to be great! Thanks Haley!"
"Rach! That's not what I meant!" Haley said, twisting in her seat as Rachel raced up the stairs.
Haley watched her flounce from the house and groaned. "Rachel! That's not what I was suggesting!" she called out after her. She glanced at Maritza. "This is going to be another disaster."
Maritza couldn't help but agree.
Shaye stopped and stared, caught off guard. "Rachel. What are you doing here?"
She smiled softly. "I just thought I'd drop Shayla off this time." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"Daddy! Daddy!" Shayla said eagerly, leaning away from Rachel and reaching for Shaye.
Shaye caved with a groan. "Alright. We can talk when I come by on Sunday to drop Shayla off."
"Yeah!" Rachel cheered, impulsively kissing his cheek, unperturbed when he belatedly pulled away. "Wonderful! I'll see you Sunday! Bye sweetie!" she said, holding her daughter's hand. She raised her gaze to Shaye's and smiled. "Bye," she said huskily, before turning to leave.
In the meantime, Haley drifted outside to paint.
He glanced over with a scowl when a kid pushed past him, knocking him into Austin.
"Nah," Jason said, shaking his head. "My mom's picking me up today. We're gonna go to my uncle's house." Looking up, he saw his mom by the bike rack and waved at her.
"Maybe later, huh?" Austin said, taking off towards the bus.
"Later!" Jason called back, racing to the bike rack.
Haley waited patiently as Jason jumped on his bike. "Are you ready to go?"
"I'll race you!" Jason called out.
Alan stopped mid-sentence in his conversation with Ian when the door blew open. Ian glanced at his nephew in shock, then smothered a laugh. "Alan, this is my nephew, Jason. Jason, this is my friend, Alan." He motioned to his right and said, "And this Aunt Cece's sister, Edith."
Jason glanced with interest at Edith. "Does that make her my Aunt, too?"
They were saved from answering as Haley hurried inside after her son. "Jason! I told you to wait for me!" she said, somewhat short of breath. "Sorry," she said to Ian and Cecelie. "He knows better than to just barge in."
Cecelie smiled, "He's fine. Come in!"
"Charles!" Martiza smiled, opening the door. "Come in!"
Maritza's heart melted. "Oh! They're lovely!" she said, leaning close and smelling them, pleasure written across her face. "Let me go put them in water!"
"Hey Haley! It's been a long time!" Alan said, pulling her close for a friendly hug. "How is everything?"
Haley smiled shyly. "We're doing good. Rachel's working at the Little Corsican Bistro!" she said, feeling honor-bound to mention her friend.
"That's good. What about you, though? What are you doing?" he asked, summarily dismissing Rachel.
"Oh. Well, I'm still painting," she said, trailing off. What was she doing with her life? There had to be something more to it. She frowned.
"Umm.. Haley?" Alan asked, bending down a smidgen to meet her gaze. "Is that okay?" he gently pressed with a grin.
Haley smiled and nodded. "I'd like that," she told him.
Alan breathed out a sigh of relief. "Great!"
Maritza set her fork aside and sighed. "There is truly nothing like eating home-grown salad!"
Charles chuckled. "I try to buy organic at the grocery store, but it certainly costs an arm and a leg! I don't know how you manage to find the time to grow your own!"
"All of this has been Haley's labor of love! She's very eco-friendly. The garden, the fresh eggs, the bikes..." she trailed off, feeling silly. "And listen to me blathering on!"
"No, go on! I enjoy listening to you talk!" he told her. "You really love it here, don't you?"
He reached across the table and caressed her hand. "It's nice to have family, no matter where you find it," he told her. "You ladies are very lucky to have each other."
Maritza blushed. She knew that Charles was interested in having a more serious relationship. She thought she could handle casually dating, but she was scared that she was beginning to care.
She'd already loved and lost...
Standing, she skirted around him. "Well, thank you for coming!" she said breathlessly. "It's always lovely to see you!"
Charles reached for her hands and squeezed. "I see a brave, intelligent woman. And you are definitely worth the wait." He slowly began lowering his head towards hers, giving her plenty of time to back away.
Charles nodded, his lips grazing against hers. "Mmm... I know," he answered her. "Next time," he assured her as their mouths opened in a hungry kiss.
She ran her hands through his hair. "Next time," she agreed, closing her eyes and enjoying the moment.