Chapter Thirteen

“I’m not sure I want to go along with this idea, Ramon,” Rick said as the two prepared for their annual New Year’s Eve party on the Riverwalk. “Deet will find out it’s a set-up and be pissed.”

“I don’t care,” Ramon replied. “I’m sick of my best friend going around with that ‘woe is me’ male angst attitude we’re all supposed to have. What he needs is a night of unfettered passion with a gorgeous hunk.”

“I talked to him the other night,” Rick said. “You need to give him time, Ramon, to work his way through everything. Right now he’s trying to figure out how to raise Eric and not make enough mistakes that he loses Jane, I mean Katia. He did loosen up enough to dance with Tran.”

“Two dances do not the heat of passion make, Rick,” Ramon responded. “Besides, those two are so hung up on the ethics between doctor and patient that they’ll never make a play for each other.”

“Why are you so hell bent on playing Little Miss Match Maker?”

“For several reasons, only one of which is his attitude,” Ramon said. “That beating he took as a teenager scared the shit out of him. Then we were in love for five years. The last big fight we had, the one where I left him for good, was my fault. I tried to force him to come out when he wasn’t ready and it only drove him deeper into his shell. Now he’s got Eric and, hopefully, little Katia.”

“I think having the kids around is good for him. He hasn’t given a party in years until the Christmas party. Granted, there were a few tense moments between the two of us, but he was more relaxed and happy than I’ve seen him in a long time.”

“That’s just it, Babe,” Ramon said, “now he’s got the kids. He’ll wrap himself up in them and completely turn his back on ever finding a man to spend the rest of his life with. And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

“Oh no,” Rick replied with a laugh. “I’ve done all I’m going to do. Turning on my irresistible charm to get Tran to our party is as far as I go. Getting the man down to your brother-in-law’s party is entirely up to you. I still think it’s a mistake but it’s your call.”

. . .

“Are you sure you don’t want to join us?” Deet asked Deidre as he zipped Katia’s coat. “You’re more than welcome, you know.”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Deidre replied. “I’m going to curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book and some soothing music. I’ll probably be asleep long before midnight. Besides, someone has to be here to take Benji out to do his doggy business and provide a lap for Miracle to sleep in. You young people go on and have a good time.”

“You’ll miss the fireworks!” Eric exclaimed.

“If I’m still awake at midnight I can go out the front door and watch the show,” Deidre said. “Now make sure you have your pajamas and tooth-brushes.”

“I have them,” Deet assured her as he picked up a small overnight case. “Don’t worry, if you miss the show tonight I’m sure Eric and Katia will tell you all about it several times tomorrow.”

They waved goodbye to Deidre and went to wait for the trolley-train, a cold wind blowing from the north.

. . .

“You paid how much for Katia’s doll?” Manuel asked for the third time. “That’s a lot of money for one doll.”

“She was hand-crafted, Manuel,” Deet explained … also for the third time. “And she looks just like Katia. Christmas was a busy time for master craftsmen like Herr Hausman. Economic times are hard everywhere and he usually does all the doll work himself. He only takes on extra help over Christmas. The first time I called him he said it was too late for him to have the doll done in time. But then I faxed him a picture of the one his great-great-grandfather made for Kitty and he promised to have the doll to me by Christmas. Katia called Herbert to tell him about the doll and he told Betty. They were over the next day and Betty’s already negotiating with Herr Hausman to have him create several dolls for her to sell on consignment.”

“If you keep spending money like water on the kids I’ll have to reconsider your portfolio,” Carlos Fuentes said as he joined Deet and Manuel near the third floor balcony of their hotel. “At least you can claim Eric as a dependent on your taxes.”

“Don’t you ever think about anything but money?” Manuel asked his brother.

“I’m a CPA,” Carlos replied. “We piss dollar signs. My brain is still reeling from the amount my client put in trust accounts for Eric and Katia. Speaking of which, Deet, are you sure you want Katia’s to be an irrevocable trust? What if the judge doesn’t let you adopt her?”

“Carlos, I love you like a brother but you are a total pain in the ass,” Deet replied. “I want Katia to have that money when she grows up. If Judge Solari doesn’t let me adopt her I’m sure she’ll see that Katia has a good home with a loving family.”

“The trust is confidential information that neither Katia nor any other adoptive family will be privy to,” Manuel reminded his brother.

“Daddy!” Katia suddenly shouted. “Look! I see Rick!”

“Great,” Deet thought to himself as he walked into the cold air on the hotel balcony. “Where?” he asked.

“Down there,” Katia said and pointed to the balcony below.

The balconies of the hotel were stair-stepped as they descended to the bank of the river below and Deet could clearly see Rick, the center of attention among a group of handsome men. The loud music blaring from the hotel room made it impossible for Rick to hear Katia’s attempts to gain his attention.

“I forgot that Rick and Ramon have their New Year’s Eve parties at this hotel every year,” he told Jane. “Would you like for me to call down to their suite and ask if they can come up here for a few minutes?”

“Could you? Pleeeease?” she begged.

“You really like Rick, don’t you?” Deet said.

“I do,” she replied. “He’s cute and he dances sexy.”

“What!” Deet responded. “You’re not old enough to think about sexy.”

“Chill, Dad,” Eric said as he joined them. “Rick IS sexy. And it’s not like you have to worry about Katia. Jeez!”

Deet went to the telephone and asked for Rick Jordan’s room.

“Sure,” Ramon said when Deet asked if he and his lover could join the Fuentes party for a few minutes. “Tell Katia we’ll be up in about five.”

“Hi, Sis,” Ramon said when Consuela answered the knock on their hotel room door.

“You’re not bringing your debauchery up here are you?” Consuela asked with a laugh as she kissed her brother’s cheek.

Ramon laughed and hugged Consuela. “I don’t debauch,” he replied as he returned the kiss, “at least, not more than once a week.”

“And then only with me,” Rick said as he hugged the woman he considered his sister-in-law. “Happy tomorrow,” he added.

“Dr. Tran!” Katia exclaimed as she shot across the room and threw herself into his arms. “I didn’t know you were coming tonight. Wait until Eric and Daddy see you! Eric!” she shouted, “look who’s here!”

Deet had heard the girl’s exclamation and blushed slightly at the knowledge that Tran was stopping by.

“Rick invited him to our party,” Ramon said when Eric walked over to greet his psychiatrist. “When Deet invited Rick and me to drop by we talked him into joining us. I think,” he whispered to Katia, “that our party is a little too loud and he’d be more comfortable with you guys.”

Ramon and Rick stayed for half an hour and mingled with the assorted Fuentes-Martinez kith and kin. Rick talked Katia into joining him for a slow dance, not easy to accomplish since he towered over her – her nose somewhere in the proximity of his navel.

Before they left Rick knelt down to be more eye-level with the girl. “Do me a favor, honey?” he asked.

“Ok,” she replied.

“I think Tran’s going to stay at this party. Ask him to dance with you.”

“I don’t dance good,” she hesitated.

“Well … Katia, you don’t dance well. But you do. You have a wonderful sense of music. You’re learning very quickly and can already do everything I’ve taught you. Now listen because this is very important. Dance with Tran, then your dad, then Eric and Jorge - in that order because it’s part of a secret. Then dance with Tran again and ask him to ask Deet to dance. But you can’t let anyone know.”

“I ain’t doing nothing unless I know why,” Katia stated.

Rick leaned close and whispered. “I think Deet and Tran kind of like each other but they’re both shy. If you do this just right, all by yourself without even telling Eric, then when it’s midnight maybe they’ll kiss.”

“Kiss?” Katia asked. “Why would they wanna kiss at midnight?”

“Because it will be the new year and kissing someone you like a lot is something people do. I’m going to kiss Ramon and I’ll bet Manuel kisses Consuela.”

“Can I kiss Eric and Jorge?” she asked.

“You sure can,” Rick answered. “And you can kiss all of Jorge’s sisters. That’s kissing between friends and one of the best kinds of kissing there is. But if Deet and Tran kiss each other it’s going to mean they might find something special like I have with Ramon.”

“Like they could be boyfriends?” Katia asked.

“You’re too smart for me,” Rick said with a chuckle. “Ramon and I have to back to our party so could we have one of those friend kisses before we leave?”

“I thought you didn’t approve,” Ramon said to Rick as the elevator carried them down to the next floor.

“I thought it over,” Rick said. “Hell, Babe, it’s New Year’s. Screw rational thought. I hope they fall hopelessly in love.”

“But you stooped to the level of convincing a twelve year old girl to be your accomplice,” Ramon chided.

“I know,” Rick agreed.

The assorted children rushed to the hotel room balcony when Manuel announced it was almost midnight. Jane had followed Rick’s suggestion and found that she enjoyed dancing. When everyone made their way into the cold to watch the fireworks, she made sure that her foster parent was standing next to her doctor. Manuel began the ten second countdown.

When the clock said midnight and the fireworks began Manuel kissed his wife. Jane quickly kissed Jorge and Eric before she turned her attention to Deet and Tran.

“You’re s’posed to kiss the person you’re standing next to,” she announced with her hands on her hips.

. . .

Deet’s senses came awake as the smell of coffee invaded his olfactory senses and sped toward his brain cells. He gradually realized that Katia was standing beside the bed saying, “Daddy? Daddy, room service brought breakfast. You need to wake up now.”

“Yeah, Dad, wake up!” Eric said from the door. Then he stopped and did a double-take. “Holy shi … cow! You scored! Hey, Tio Manuel! Dad got lucky last night!”

Deet pulled the sheet over his head and moaned his embarrassment.

“I knew I should have left before anyone woke up,” Tran whispered in his ear. “Too late now. I guess we’ll just have to face everyone.”

“I think you’re enjoying this,” Deet said.

“Immensely,” Tran replied, “for the moment. Angie Solari’s going to kick my ass all over her court for this when she finds out.”

“Does she have to?” Deet asked.

“Yes,” Tran replied. “I have no choice. I violated one of the most fundamental rules of medicine.”

“Is this going to hurt the adoption?” Deet asked, suddenly very worried that he’d done something wrong – again.

“Not the adoption,” Tran assured him. “But you’ll have to find another family therapist.”

“Dad!” Eric called before they could work themselves into a monumental worry, “your coffee is going to get cold!”

“My son already knows me too well,” Deet said before he smiled and added, “race you to the bathroom.”


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