Parts Of His Story

I returned to the table to find Alex and Cara with their heads together, bodies shaking with stop-start giggles. I looked slowly from one to the other, my eyebrows lowered and my lips flat.

“Do I even want to know what’s going on?” I asked over the buzz of conversation filling the crowded room.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cara managed to say with an impressively haughty look that lasted a good three seconds before it fractured into a mischievous grin.

“I was simply teaching Cara a few words of Creole,” Alex said, pure innocence arrayed carefully across his face.

“There will be no swearing under my roof,” I told Cara. “In any language.”

Alex came dangerously close to a very unmanly snort, which he attempted to turn into a cough; Cara briefly considered pouting but decided to get back to questioning her new buddy instead.

“Why did you choose to get into boxing Alex? All the big bucks seem to be in MMA these days – you could be the Haitian George St. Pierre!”

“GSP would make my pretty face very ugly,” he replied with a deep laugh. “But to be a mixed martial artist requires training in many disciplines and that costs money I do not have. If I go into a cage as only a boxer, I will leave it in pieces.”

“Besides, MMA is still banned in Vancouver,” I said before taking a drink of water, my hand soon slick with the sweat from my glass. “So not only would he have to spend years doing additional training, a delay he’s definitely not interested in, but he’d also have to leave the city to do it.”

“Sorry, I was just trying to help,” Cara muttered at the tabletop. “It’s not like I was suggesting he buy lottery tickets or something.”

“There is nothing to apologize for – I am deeply grateful for your generosity,” Alex told her. “But boxing is what I know; in a way I have been training all my life – in streets, alleys, and now a proper gym. As much as I want to rush to the money I need, patience is necessary. Dye mon, gen mon – beyond the mountain is another mountain.”

Cara nodded slowly and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the young man before me all over again. I was filled by an intense desire to do my damnedest to do everything I could for him.

The waiter returned, carrying our heavy plates as though they were made of Styrofoam. I closed my eyes and breathed deep, savoring the sweet calm before the explosive storm of flavors in my mouth.

“Enjoy your dinners my lady, gentlemen,” he said and was off to his next table with bouncing strides.

“This is incredible,” Alex said after trying a piece of his steaming fish. “In Haiti we are very fond of riddles and in my home we liked to share them at dinner – would you like to hear one?”

“Yes please!” Cara said, her eyes wide with excitement.

“This is Simone’s, my little sister, this is her favorite,” Alex told her. “There are three very large men under a single umbrella. But, none of them gets wet. Why?”

Cara chewed her lip and stirred her curry while I bit into my chicken and mulled it over myself. I have always been terrible at riddles; my mind just doesn’t like straying from its simple little box. Just as I was about to suggest that they were underneath a beach umbrella Cara straightened with a jolt.

“It’s not raining!”

“Ah, very good!” Alex clapped his hands and smiled widely. “Such a quick mind, your daughter - you should be very proud Nate.”

“That I am,” I said with a wink in Cara’s direction. “Most of the time, anyway.”

“How did you get that scar on your chin?” Cara asked around a mouthful of curry while doing an admirable job of pretending I no longer existed. I hadn’t even noticed the faint line along the right side of his jaw; even if I had I would have just assumed it had been caused by a training accident of some sort.

“I was walking with Simone, coming home for dinner I think, two summers ago. I was twenty, she was fourteen. Three boys came out of nowhere; one threw a brick and it struck me here,” he paused to tap the side of his chin with a long finger, his smile fading into pensive lines. “I am lucky for his bad aim – I think he was aiming for here.” His finger moved to his temple and tapped again. “It did not knock me down like they hoped - it only made me very angry. They did not stay long.”

“What did they want from you?” Cara asked in an awed whisper.

“Oh, they did not want me,” Alex said as he impaled three yam fries on his fork. “They wanted Simone.”

Cara’s eyes went wide before falling slowly, silently to her plate. I had to struggle to swallow the slice of chicken that I had been absent-mindedly chewing on. Suddenly the happy conversations that surrounded us, the joyful music that swept over us, the food that warmed our insides, all seemed insensitive and inappropriate.

“We will get your family here,” I told Alex. “One way or another, we will get them here.”

The End

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