“Charisse, are you okay?”
Charisse sat bolt upright and tried to pretend like she hadn’t dozed off at a bus stop in front of the hospital. Raul had his hand on her shoulder and concern in his eyes.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Could you take me to the penthouse? Conor said I could spend the night there.”
He narrowed his eyes, and for a moment she thought he might take her back into the hospital. Instead he straightened and turned towards the car.
She got up and followed him. When he opened the back door, she slowly climbed inside, being careful to sit up straight instead of laying across the back like she wanted to.
After Raul had gotten in and pulled out into traffic, he said, “I’m very worried about you.”
“I’m fine, really. Except for the fact I almost gave Daddy another heart attack and my mother hates me.” She pulled her knees up to her chest and laid her head on them.
“Gianna’s a complicated woman.”
She thought that was a polite way of saying ‘bitch’, but she kept it to herself. A small part of her wanted to be with Marie and Gianna, laughing and eating dinner someplace fancy, but Gianna had been gone too long with no explanation and showed no remorse. Except about Raul. She pondered telling him what Gianna had said about owing him an apology, but she couldn’t stomach it.
She tried to push her thoughts to all the things she wanted to accomplish while Conor was gone. Fatigue made her think the list was hopeless.
At the penthouse, she followed Raul to the kitchen and dropped down into a chair at the round table in the corner.
“What would you like for dinner?” asked Raul.
“How about chicken sofrito and yellow rice? The beans would take all day to cook, but the dish holds up without them.”
“Didn’t you cook that for us when I was little?” Charisse recalled the rich aroma and how happy her mom had been on those nights. If only Gianna had seemed even a little happy to see her again.
“Yes, it’s easy enough.”
Raul set to work pulling out a cutting board and a knife followed by peppers from the refrigerator. Charisse wished she had her laptop so she could sort through her business idea better. She hated typing on her phone, but at least she could do some research.
“Do you have paper and pen I could use?” she asked Raul.
He opened a drawer and pulled out the yellow tablet of paper she’d seen the list including “flowers for Lana” on. That seemed so long ago now.
When he slid the tablet in front of her she asked, “What flowers did you send to Lana for Conor?”
Raul’s eyes widened momentarily. In a completely flat voice he said, “Cheap carnations in a hideous green.”
She grinned at him. “Thank you.”
He winked at her and turned away.