Dreams Come True ------------- (A Chico and the Man story) by Mariposa
The Comfortable Couch
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Sharon Brown came into her father Eds garage at the end of her late shift as a nurse, hoping to get a chance to say goodbye before he and his assistant Chico left on their big fishing trip. It was three-thirty in the morning and she knew they would be gettting up soon to be on the lake by five. She didnt really expect to find any lights on in the garage itself, but when she put her fist to the side door to knock, to her surprise it swung open. As she entered Sharon noticed that the door to Chicos small apartment was also ajar and light was coming from inside. Stepping carefully around an assortment of boxes and scattered tools along the wall, Sharon went to Chicos door and poked her head in. "Good morning!" she called just above a whisper, in case her father was still asleep upstairs. But there was no sign of Chico, so Sharon--ever the practical one--flipped the light switch off and closed the door. She decided to try knocking at the door of her fathers room, so she headed for the stairs.

That was when Sharon saw that Chico was sitting on the broken down old couch in the "waiting room"--actually just the space where the van he slept in for three years had been parked before Ed let him have the apartment built in the space which used to be the storeroom. In the darkness she could barely make him out, but there was no mistaking that thick black hair and those long legs. She couldnt see his face, for his head was down, chin propped on both his graceful hands. His posture reminded Sharon of that famous statue, "The Thinker", except that as her eyes adjusted she could see that Chico was dressed in a red velvet jacket and gray slacks--unlike the statue, which was naked. Sharon caught herself in the middle of that thought--she had a similar one each time she found herself admiring her fathers young Chicano employee, wanting to see him without the chambray workshirt and tight jeans he wore every day. Even now, beautiful as he was dressed up, he made her think of undressing him. Sharon had seen Chico at least once a week during the three years he had lived with and worked for her father, usually when she came to have dinner with Ed at the old dining room table he kept in his upstairs apartment as a reminder of the family he, Sharon, and her late mother Margaret had once been. But Chico had never joined them for these meals, always saying he didnt want to intrude on their "family time". Sharon had at first been disappointed, but the more she saw Chico the more she was glad that--though her father had obviously come to think of him like a son--she didnt have to sit at that table with him and think of him as a brother. For the longer Sharon watched him--his dark eyes that seemed to look right through her, his broad shoulders, dimpled grin, that cat-like, long-striding walk, the view when he bent over a car--the more she tried to think of a way to tell Chico that she wanted to be much more than a friend to him.

It wasnt just for herself that Sharon wanted to have a relationship with Chico. True, she was knocking hard on the door of thirty years of age, and her job as a nurse kept her too busy for a social life, but she also knew how discouraged Chico had become with the long string of girlfriends he had pursued so doggedly over the years. He had asked nearly every one of them to marry him, and had always been turned down. Sharon had always wished she could have been there to comfort him--she had only heard about these traumatic episodes after the fact from her father. Chico was far too proud to talk to the daughter of his employer on such a personal level about himself, though he sometimes clued her in on her fathers mood if he had a bad day before she arrived for dinner. In fact, that had been about the extent of their talking to each other--commiserating at Ed Browns moodiness and fondness for whiskey (which only made the moods worse). But somehow as she stood looking at him now, Sharon felt she was seeing a chance to be of some solace to Chico, though she didnt know regarding what. His whole demeanor seemed sad, and she stepped away from the stairs to go to him. He didnt seem to notice as she sat beside him and put an arm around his shoulders, so she leaned close--close enough to smell the dark, warm scent of his bronze skin--and whispered, "You OK, Chico?" as nonchalantly as she could manage.

Startled, Chico jerked away. When he saw who she was, his large white teeth lit up the darkness with a gentle smile. "Oh, its you, Sharon!" He didnt sound pleased, and Sharon was briefly insulted. But when she looked again, Chicos smile had faded and she could see tears on his cheeks. Touching his hair, she asked, "Whats the matter?" Chico leaned back against the couch, spreading his long arms wide across its back, and sighed heavily. "Its a long story, Sharon--and kinda personal." As he spoke, Sharon turned so that she was sitting with her legs stretched out on the couch--mostly to force herself to keep a respectful distance, for she longed to put her arms around Chico and console him, whatever was troubling him. "I understand," she replied when she had settled herself. "I just came to tell you and Dad goodbye before you went fishing, so Ill go up and see him and leave you alone." But something kept Sharon rooted to the spot, anticipation making the hairs at the back of her neck stand up. Chico lowered his arms, resting his cheek on the back of the couch, and closed his eyes. As he relaxed, his right forearm came alongside Sharons left leg, causing her to get goosebumps. A ray of moonlight from the tiny window high in the wall behind them caught his hair, gilding it with silver. If I just lean forward a little, Sharon thought, I can touch it. She did so, and this time Chico didnt react. At least not at first, but as she continued to stroke it, it seemed as if he was moaning softly.

Sharon hardly dared hope, and told herself she was imagining things--it had to be the wind. But there was no mistake, for now Chico was positioning himself so that his head rested on Sharons lap and he lay on his side in the space next to her legs. She ran her fingers through his hair, surprised by how soft it was for a mans. She was even more surprised that Chico kept making that sound, like a child content in its mothers embrace, "Mmmmmm...." Trying to hold her imagination in check, Sharon decided she had better stop. Chicos nearness and warmth were enough to make her do something foolish. She took her hand away and just sat watching him rest beside her. The streaks left by his tears were still visible on his cheek, and after a few moments Sharon watched as her hand, unbidden, came off the back of the couch and her fingers softly brushed them away. Amazement struck her once again, for Chicos skin was so soft it didnt seem to be that of a man in his middle twenties. Sharon didnt want to move her hand, and since Chico didnt stir she let it rest there for as long as he seemed willing to allow it. It wasnt long before his soft breathing was replaced by what sounded like snoring, and Sharon realized that Chico had fallen asleep. It was no wonder, she thought--the way he was dressed it was obvious he had been on a date and hadnt been to bed all night. So Sharon sat as still as she could, even after her legs began to tingle and she doubted she could have moved even if that gorgeous head had not been weighing them down. She put her head against the couch and before long was asleep herself.

When she woke, the sun was fully up and Sharon was at first confused, then remembered what had happened earlier that morning. The garage was quiet, and she thought her father and Chico had long since left for their fishing trip, in spite of whatever had made Chico cry and lose a nights sleep. She stood, stretching and yawning, then started across the concrete floor to leave. She was almost to the side door when she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Sharon?" The soft voice was Chicos, and her heart leaped as she turned to face him. "Good morning, Chico," Sharon said evenly. "No its not," Chico answered, his handsome face showing all the signs of his sleepless, sorrowful night. "I think I owe you an explanation." Sharon shook her head, smiling softly. "No, you dont. You said it was personal." She turned and took a step, but Chicos hand closed around her upper arm, stopping her, then slid down to take hold of her hand. "Come here," he ordered gently, leading her into his apartment Chico sat down on the bright blue futon couch and patted the cushion. "Sit here with me, please." Looking up at Sharon and extending his hand, he seemed once again like a child, huge sad eyes pleading for attention. They followed her as she did what he asked and never left her face as he seemed to struggle for a place to begin. "What is it, Chico?" Sharon asked, to give him a way into the conversation. "Well, you remember Nancy, right?" Sharon nodded, slightly uncomfortable under Chicos steady gaze, as well as at the thought that he was about to tell her something about the woman he had been dating for several months now. If she had to listen to too many details, Sharon thought, she might betray her feelings for Chico in an effort to get him to stop making her jealous. She turned away and stared at the colorful Mexican rug on the floor, trying to think of ways to avoid such an embarrassment.

"And you remember her daughter, Morgan?" Chico continued, bringing Sharon back into the present moment with a start. She nodded again, and he went on, "Well, last night Nancy and I were supposed to have dinner at this fancy restaurant and I was planning to try again to propose to her." Sharon was crestfallen--Chico was obviously about to tell her that, unlike the first time he had asked Nancy a few weeks after they had renewed their high school acquaintance, this time Nancy had agreed to marry him. But wait a minute, she told herself--that doesnt make sense; if she said "Yes," then why was Chico so sad? "I even had a ring this time," Chico was saying, reaching into his shirt pocket and pulling out a modest but elegant solitaire. At last breaking his gaze at Sharon and staring into the diamonds fire, he finally resumed speaking. "Anyway, Nancy couldnt get a babysitter, so we had to take Morgan along. I tried to be OK with it, since if I married her mother I was gonna have to deal with this kid all the time. Ive always been pretty flexible--I thought I could get used to even the unexpected. But we had never taken her anywhere like this before. Morgan has always been kinda rude to me--she probably thinks that someday her mom and dad will be getting back together, and after a while--when it became obvious that her dad wasnt coming back and I wasnt going away, she started to see me as the enemy. Like if she wants to tell me something--which isnt often--she whispers it to Nancy and has her tell me, even when we are sitting in the same room. And when I try to hug her she backs away. As if that werent bad enough, there was the way she acted last night..."

Chico stopped, putting the ring back in his pocket, and it looked to Sharon as if he were fighting back tears. He stood up and began pacing in front of the couch, and Sharon tried to focus on his obvious emotional pain rather than on his sensuous walk.. "Morgan was so disruptive!" Chico stopped in front of Sharon, hands on hips, face clouded with anger. "She ran all over the place, couldnt decide what to order, then when she finally did order something she didnt want it by the time it came. Nancy didnt say much--didnt even go after her when she left the table!" Chico flopped gracelessly back on the couch beside Sharon. Reflexively she reached for his hand as she watched him remembering what had happened next, tears beginning to spill down his cheeks. Taking a deep breath, he came to the point. "Well, it got to where I couldnt take it anymore, so I asked Nancy, Arent you gonna do something? I must have been yelling, because everyone in the place turned to look. Nancy just smiled at me like I was stupid, like you arent a father, you cant understand. Then she says to me, Morgans just being a kid--she hasnt had much chance to be one, thinking she had to worry about me after her father and I split up, so I dont like to curb her enthusiasm too much." Chico looked at Sharon, anger flashing in his brimming eyes. His voice became shrill and feminine as he disdainfully mimicked Nancy, "I dont like to curb her enthusiasm too much! Madre de Dios! Can you believe that?!" Sharon shook her head, more to placate Chico than because she really had any opinion. His voice came out raspy as he continued, "So I just lost it--I knocked over my chair when I stood up, and this time I know I yelled at Nancy, told her that her kid was a spoiled brat, then lit out after Morgan myself. When I caught up with her in the waiting area, I just picked her up under the arms and carried her out to Nancys car. She kept screaming that I was hurting her, and by the time I had sat her on the hood, Nancy was running up behind us, screaming that I had no right, that I wasnt Morgans father!" Sharon hoped her face didnt betray her shock at the idea of sweet, mild-mannered Chico being accused of hurting a child. Now she felt her own eyes welling up, especially as Chico looked right at her and said "And yknow, I realized then that she was right--I am nobodys father, and I dont think I ever will be..."

Chicos voice trailed off, his crying turning to sobbing. He put his arms around Sharon and buried his face against her shoulder. Between sobs he managed to choke out, "I spose its just as well--I never even knew my father until just lately, so I wouldnt know how to be a father, would I?" Sharon was so taken aback she couldnt think of an answer; she just held Chico and patted his back, trying to shush him and murmurring, "Its alright, its alright," even though she knew it wasnt. She became aware that he wasnt finished with his story, for she felt his lips moving and his warm breath on her neck. His voice was barely above a whisper as he concluded, "Well, Nancy gave as good as she had gotten from me, calling me the one who was spoiled--she said I had gotten so used to taking care of myself that I could never get close enough to take care of anyone else!" Chico backed away from Sharon, his beautiful eyes bloodshot. Putting his head in his hands the way she had first found him last night, he added, "And all this time I had thought Nancy didnt want to be taken care of! I had spent so much time trying not to invade her space that I guess I made her feel like the enemy!" He turned away and laid his cheek against the back of the couch, wrapping his arms around his knees. Sharon could tell by the shaking of his shoulders that Chico had broken down completely, though he made no noise. She slid over to him and tried to pull him close, but he shook her off. She decided it would be best to leave him alone. Besides, she had only had a couple of hours sleep early this morning, and suddenly felt completely drained. Standing over Chico for a moment, Sharon touched his lustrous hair one last time before letting herself out of his room.

To her surprise Sharon found her father standing at the workbench in the garage, laboring as usual. He had no idea that his beloved assistant was falling apart just a few feet away. She walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Startled, Ed jumped as he turned to see who was there. "Why, Sharon, what are you doing here?" Sharon tried to keep her voice steady, but the tears she was holding back seemed to spill into her throat, making it difficult to speak. "Sharon, whats wrong?" she heard her father saying. He knew her too well, she couldnt keep anything from him. "Chicos in his room, very upset," she answered, "He told me what it was about, but I think I better go so he can tell you himself." Giving her father a one-arm hug and a quick kiss on the cheek, Sharon left to go home and rest.

To keep herself awake, she thought about what had just happened over the last few hours, and tried to decide how best to go forward. Chico was very vulnerable right now--much more so than any other time he had lost a girlfriend--but the very fact that he was once again available made Sharons heart pound with excitement even in her sympathy for him. Then again, she had been around enough to realize that a man on the rebound was usually a bad investment. At her age, that was about all she could find--but at least, she reminded herself, Chico doesnt come with the heavy emotional baggage of a divorce. And I have come to love him enough over these three years that, as long as I can still see him around the garage, my feelings are strong enough to help me wait a few more months to have him to myself. But what if he and Nancy patched things up, or he found someone else? Waiting would do me more harm than good, Sharon finally decided--I have to at least tell Chico how I feel. Then I will back away and let him come to me when he is ready.

By this time Sharon had arrived home, and she barely took the time to undress and brush her teeth before climbing into bed, emotionally and physically exhausted. In her dreams she saw herself back in the garage, the way she had been last night--sitting in the dark with Chico. But this time she did not keep her distance. Instead she sat right down beside him and rested her head on his strong shoulder. He kissed the top of her head and toyed with her curly blonde hair as she spoke to him. "Oh, Chico, its so good to be with you like this after all these years! Do you have any idea how much I love you?" She lifted her eyes to his and searched his face for the answer. It came in the form of the sweetest kiss Sharon had ever experienced, just the way she had always imagined it would be. Chico murmurred, "Not nearly as much as I love you, Sharon," just before their lips met. His fingers tangled in her hair, and hers in his, and all their movements seemed to mirror one another as their hands next travelled down each others backs, stroking from shoulders to buttocks and lingering there before starting back up. All the while Chico explored Sharons mouth with his impossibly long tongue. They seemed not to need to breathe, their energy coming from the love flowing between them. Without warning, the dream shifted into a kind of gentle violence, and suddenly they were tearing at each others clothes. Once both Chico and Sharon were naked, they began to use lips and tongues as well as hands to explore every inch of each others bodies, including tasting each others most private places. Another shift in the dream found them lying in the waterbed in Chicos room, again moving in perfect rhythm as they made love in what seemed like slow motion, again kissing constantly with all the hunger three years of temptation had built up in them both. Sharon could sense that they were about to lose control at the same time, when suddenly there was a sound like a siren and her eyes snapped open.

The alarm clock on her night stand had been the source of the noise, and Sharon rolled over and angrily slapped it off. It was noon on her day off, so after a shower and some coffee, Sharon sat down by the phone in her living room and willed her hands to pick it up and dial. But she was shaking all over at the prospect of seeing Chico again so soon, and with the memory of her dream still so fresh in her mind. Come on, Sharon, she berated herself, youll never be able to relax around him again unless you get this off your chest--call him! Taking a quick deep breath, she dialed the number of the garage and waiting, not breathing again until she heard a voice saying "Ed Browns Garage, Rodriguez speaking." Her breath stopped again at the sound of the Spanish inflection which crept into Chicos voice when he said his name, and she began to shake again, sure she couldnt go through with this. "Hello? Is anyone there?" Snap out of it, she yelled at herself as she tried to speak. "Hi, Chico, its Sharon." She could hear the smile in his voice as Chico said, "Well, hi yourself! Whats happenin?" Sharon giggled like a little girl, "Oh, not much--just woke up hungry and wondered if youd like to meet me for lunch?" The silence that followed seemed to last an hour before Chico said, "Sure, Id love to!" She started to wonder why he had hesitated, and worried that it had something to do with what he had revealed to her last night, Sharon asked softly, "You OK, Chico?" There came a chuckle from the other end of the line, and Chico said, "That sounds familiar!" It took Sharon a second to realize that she had asked him the same thing to get his attention early that morning, and she had to chuckle herself. "Yeah, Ill survive," Chico was saying, "and having lunch with you will certainly brighten my day, amor mio!" Sharon couldnt believe what she had heard, but she knew better than to think Chico had seriously meant to call her "my love"--he was such an incurable flirt that he said things like that all the time, even to her. Forcing herself to ignore it, Sharon went on, "OK then, Ill meet you at Rudys in half an hour." Chico responded, "Cool, see ya there!" and then the phone clicked off.

Now Sharon had to decide what she could wear that would make her as attractive as possible without being too obvious. She rarely wore skirts, but thought maybe in these circumstances that would be a good idea--even she realized that her legs were her best feature. Looking through her closet, she found the longest short skirt she owned--a straight denim one that stopped at mid-thigh. Then there was the blouse--nothing too revealing, but it had to be pretty and feminine. Oh, yes, she thought as her eyes came to rest on the gauze peasant blouse she had bought on a trip to Tijuana. Chico would certainly appreciate it--not only did it represent his heritage, but the embroidery at the smocked neckline was mostly blue, and Sharon knew that was his favorite color. Plus she could adjust it with a drawstring to be as low as she dared without showing too much skin (unless things went to a point where she wanted to, she thought mischievously). Finally, the shoes--of course Sharon had to wear heels, since Chico was so beautifully tall. The best choice for the outfit had to be her wooden heeled wedge sandals, so Sharon sat down on her bed and put them on. Completely dressed, she turned and looked back at the unmade mess where she had dreamed of herself and Chico abandoning themselves to passion. If I play my cards right this afternoon, she thought, maybe this evening my dream will come true! With one last look in the mirror over her dresser, Sharon was on her way to what she hoped would be a romantic lunch.

It didnt start out that way. Sitting at the bar at Rudys for over an hour, Sharon nursed a Coke and fumed at Chico. At one point she even thought of just leaving and never speaking to him again, but of course she realized that would ruin any chance she would ever have to make him fall in love with her, so she stayed where she was. A few minutes later, as she drained her glass, Sharons head bumped into someone. Spinning around on the barstool, she saw with great excitement that it was Chico. Even on this tall seat, Sharon had to look up to see his face; he smirked sheepishly and held out his large hand to help her down. He spun her around, whistling softly between his teeth. "Loooking goood!" he exclaimed in his characteristic expression, just before the momentum of the spin propelled Sharon into his arms and almost knocked him over. Throwing his head back, Chico laughed heartily, still holding her tightly. Then, looking down at her, he smiled sweetly and asked, "Should we go get a table?" Breathless from spinning and from being so close to Chico, Sharon just nodded. Chico released her and took her hand, walking ahead of her toward a table. The lunchtime crowd parted for the tall, powerfully built young Chicano, and Sharon noticed several of the women giving him the once-over and smiling. Oh no you dont, she thought--hes mine! Or at least he will be before the day is out!

Chico pulled out a chair for Sharon with a bow and a flourish of his long arm. "Have a seat, my dear," he said in his most perfect English accent. Seating herself, Sharon suddenly felt self-conscious as her skirt hiked up a bit too far. She tried to pull it down without Chico noticing, but he leaned across the table for a better look, grinning appreciatively before taking a chair. Sharon could feel herself blushing, but she knew this was for the better--if he was seeing her as a woman and not just as his employers daughter, it would be that much easier to seduce him. Stealing a look at him while he looked around the room, she noticed for the first time that Chico was not dressed in his work clothes. Rather, he was wearing a tight-fitting dark red shirt which was half-unbuttoned. In the neckline, shimmering against his smooth broad chest, was the gold necklace of saints medals and other medallions that he always wore. Over the shirt he had on the fancy denim jacket his Aunt Connie had brought him from New York, accented with patches of flowered material outlined in lace and a picture of the Virgin of Guadelope (whose intercession he so often sought, as her father had told her) on the back. Sharon hadnt actually noticed his jeans or shoes, but she could imagine the jeans were skin-tight as always and the shoes his black dress boots, which he even wore while working on cars. Altogether he made a gorgeous figure, looking ripe for an afternoon of lovemaking.

Chico chose that moment to turn back to Sharon and say, "Centavo for your thoughts!" She had to scramble to think of something innocuous to say. "Thats a beautiful jacket," was all she could come up with. Chicos smile was indulgent, as if he sensed her awkwardness. He must have known that Ed had told her where he got the jacket, and it was true she had seen it before. Unfailingly polite, however, he replied as he adjusted the cuffs, "Yeah, it is great, isnt it? Titi has such good taste!" He slipped the jacket off and turned away again to put it over the back of his chair, and by this time the waitress had brought menus. There was no more conversation as Chico and Sharon looked them over. Sharon couldnt even concentrate well enough to decide what to have, she was so nervous to finally be on something like a date with this man she had admired at a distance for so long. The silence made her even more nervous, so she put down her menu and asked, "What would you suggest?" Chico, engrossed in his own selection process, seemed startled at the sound of her voice and didnt seem at first to understand. "What? Oh, you mean for lunch?" His eyes were smiling at her over the menu as he responded, "Well, all the Mexican stuff is great, but my favorite has always been the Rudyburger--he puts salsa in the meat." Sharon nodded, "Sounds good--think Ill have one too." The waitress was back, and Chico ordered for both of them as Sharon admired the way his full lips moved when he spoke and the gleam in his dark eyes as he looked up at the waitress with a gaze that made it seem he saw no one but her. When she was gone, that same gaze fell on Sharon and she began to tremble slightly.

"So what prompted this invitation?" Chico was asking. Sharon snapped back to reality from the daydream of kissing him that the movement of his mouth had prompted. She knew she couldnt tell him the whole truth straight out, so she just replied, "Well, after this morning I was kinda worried about you, and I thought you could use some cheering up. Good thing this is my day off!" Chico laid his hand on top of Sharons where it rested on the table, still looking right into her eyes, and said, "Yes it certainly is--especially since I took a shot and asked your dad for the afternoon off! And whaddaya know, the old man actually said Yes even though I didnt tell him where I was going!" Sharon nearly gasped--Chico wanted to spend the rest of the day with her?! No, maybe not, she tried to caution herself--he probably just wanted to go back to his apartment and get some sleep after lunch. This thought caused her to notice that his lovely eyes were still bloodshot and there were dark circles under them. He must never have gone to sleep this morning, she decided, so a nap was most likely his reason for taking time off work. Having convinced herself of that fact, Sharon was taken aback by what Chico said next. "I thought maybe after this we could go do some shopping at the jewelry store across the street."--he pointed and Sharon turned to look, "I feel like I owe you something for being such a good listener earlier." Dumbfounded, Sharon felt her jaw dropping, and the next moment Chicos hand under her chin, closing her mouth. He chuckled, "Now, I wont take no for an answer--in fact I have something specific in mind." The only thought that came to Sharons mind at that moment was how sweet Chicos voice sounded when he pronounced words that began with an "s"--the slight lisp they betrayed made her think yet again of a little boy. That was the essence of who he was, she decided--a little boy trapped in the tall, muscular body of a handsome man, delighting in surprising someone he cared about.

Someone he cared about? Sharon had not realized until that moment that perhaps there was something more to Chicos feelings for her. Now is as good a time as any, she thought, clearing her throat and trying to maintain a steady gaze into Chicos eyes though her nerves were working their hardest at the thought of what she had to say. "Umm, Chico?" She waited until he said, "What, Sharon?" before plunging ahead. "Uh, I have to tell you something." Reaching for his hand as he had reached for hers a few minutes ago, she watched him turn it palm up as hers came towards it, then close it gently around her fingers. "Youre shaking!" he said softly, "What is it?" Sharon decided she couldnt get through saying her piece while looking at Chico, so she stared at the salt and pepper shakers and ketchup in the middle of the table as she struggled to come to the point. "Its just that this morning, seeing you so torn up, I began to realize something about myself..." I cant do this!, her mind screamed. She looked up after a moment to see Chico smiling gently. "I know, Sharon," he was saying, seemingly from far away, "You love me, right?" Sharon was stunned, and once again her mouth dropped open. This time Chico didnt close it with his hand; instead, he came around to her side of the table, and kneeling on the tile floor beside her chair, he put his own voluptuous mouth over Sharons and kissed her just as he had in the dream, his tongue exploring every corner of her mouth. When he broke the kiss--too quickly, it seemed to Sharon--his lips and moustache were glistening and he wiped them with the back of his hand.

"How did you know?!" Sharon managed to find just enough voice to pose the question. Chico sat back in his chair before answering, taking both of her hands as he said, "Oh, its been lots of things over the years--a look, a smile, a gesture. But then last night when you offered me your lap to rest my head and I felt your touch, I just knew!" Offered him her lap?! She had been trying to keep her distance by the way she had sat on the couch in the waiting area! But evidently even that gave away her feelings to someone as perceptive of human nature as Chico. I should have realized I couldnt hide anything like this from him! And not only that-- "I thought you were asleep! Youre very sneaky!" Chico grinned, dimples deepening, "I am, aint I?" he laughed, wiggling his heavy, perfectly arched brows. Sharon laughed, but suddenly Chico became completely serious, looking at her in a way she had never seen before as he spoke. "Now I have something I need to tell you." Oh no, she thought, I bet he called Nancy and they are back together! Lost in dread, she almost missed what Chico was saying. "I love you too, Sharon--I have since way back before my mama died and I had to go to my family in New York!" This was almost too much to take in, Sharon thought. Casting her mind back to those days, she realized she barely remembered him from that time--Chico had only been nine years old then, and she had been just entering her teens. If she had noticed him at all it would have been only as another one of the many little Chicano children just beginning to appear around the neighborhood, which they called the "barrio". She would never have thought of him as a boy on whom to turn her newly-raging hormones!

"You dont remember, do you?" Chico was saying. With a start Sharon looked back at him. His eyes were shimmering as he told her, "Your dad didnt either when I came into the garage looking for a job right after I got back from Nam. But I used to hang out in the alley behind it all the time, pitching pennies with the older boys who got me into stealing hubcaps and radios and all that from the cars he was working on..." He stopped and looked down, obviously ashamed. "I guess that was the main reason you didnt pay me any attention," he resumed after a moment, "and the fact that you were four years older meant that by the time I came back to LA when I was fifteen so I could go to high school in the barrio like my mama wanted, you were already away at nursing school." Tears trickled down his breathtaking face as he concluded, "I was disappointed not to be able to see you, and started hanging out with a bad crowd again...but I never forgot you!" He reached inside his shirt for the necklace and showed Sharon a small locket she had never noticed before among all the medals. Opening it, he held it close to her so she could see the picture in it. This time Sharon did gasp--it was the photo which had appeared in the barrio newspaper when she had graduated with her RN degree!

Leaning back and snapping the locket closed, Chico fingered it tenderly as he concluded, "Yup, this went all the way to Nam and back with me, and I swore that if I made it out alive I would get me a job with your dad and keep asking the Virgin of Guadelupe to steer you back to the garage!" Chico paused, then went on excitedly, "And she did, remember? The night my cousin Dolores came looking for me when she was gonna have her baby?" Sharon nodded--that was a night she would never forget! "Then why..." she began. "Why didnt I ever tell you this before?" Chico finished for her. She nodded again. "Because of those same things like I was saying--you were older, better educated..." It was Sharons turn to finish a sentence for Chico, "...my father had come to hate Chicanos!" after they had a laugh she went on, "Oh Chico, dont you know I havent listened to my dad in years?! He didnt want me to come back and work at the barrio hospital, did he?" Then something else occurred to her. "But you dated all those nurses..." Smiling through the tears, Chico nodded, then took Sharons hands again. "Yeah, I know," he replied softly, stroking her hands with his thumbs, "but you were the only one with a four-year degree." She had had no idea his lack of education weighed so heavily on Chico, and clutched his hands more tightly as a way of reassuring him. "Besides," he was going on, "their fathers didnt mind my Hispanic background!" Chico looked up through his long curly black eyelashes and chuckled, then became serious as he concluded, "but most of all, they werent you." Sighing, he cast his eyes toward heaven, saying barely audibly, "Gracias, Guadelupe!"

Even in her amazement at this turn of events, the locket gave Sharon a thought. Chico had mentioned shopping at the jewelry store after lunch. "If you want to give me something from the jewelry store, I think I know what I would like," she ventured. "What, amor mio?" His tone was different than on the phone earlier, and Sharon could tell that term of endearment would be meant for her alone from now on. "I would like to have a locket with your picture in it," she replied, "Would that be alright?" Chico grinned, "Well, yeah, of course it would, but remember I said I had something in mind already?" Sharon nodded as Chico turned around and reached in the pocket of his denim jacket. When he turned back to her, he was holding the ring he had shown her last night. Puzzled, Sharon tried not to think what she couldnt help thinking. "I hope you dont mind," Chico began, "but I cant afford another diamond. I do want to have it set into a different ring, though, if thats OK with you?" What? Is he proposing?! Sharon let her mind wrap enthusiastically around that thought for a second before she asked, "Are you saying you want US to get engaged?!" Chico grinned once again, nodding vigorously, "Yeah--and married too!" They both burst out laughing, just as the waitress arrived with their lunch. As soon as she had gone back to the kitchen, Chico was on his knees beside Sharon again, and the burgers were ice-cold by the time they finished kissing.