Chapter 18

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“Matt! You’re back!” cried an eight-year-old girl with a bouncy ponytail as she sprang into his arms.

Matt and Maude had just entered a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn, called Las Fajitas. Maude admired the surroundings. The place was cozy and entertaining at the same time. There was a desert-themed decoration, sombreros hanging on the walls, and cactuses stood next to each red-draped table. The place was packed, and some of the customers danced to the lively salsa music played by a live band of guitars, drums and maracas.

“Of course I’m back.” Matt said, hugging the girl warmly. “How are you, Anita? Where are Rosa and Eduardo?”

“They’re coming. I’m fine. I lost my two front teeth. See?”

Anita proudly exhibited the gap in her mouth as if she was presenting a trophy.

“Lovely,” he said smiling. “I bet the tooth fairy brought you a surprise, didn’t she?”

“She did! I’m rich now, Matt. I can buy you a convertible if you want. Who’s this?” she asked, pointing to Maude.

“Good question, Anita. Who is this lovely girl you brought to our restaurant?” asked an imposing, dark-haired woman in an apron emerging from the kitchen, followed by a thin, dark-haired man.

“Rosa, Eduardo!” Matt cried before being pulled into a tight, bear hug.

“We haven’t seen you in ages!  You’ve neglected us. And you’ve become so thin, Matt. What have you been eating?”

“I came last month, Rosa. That hardly qualifies as neglect. Besides I’ve been very busy working on Maude’s album. Maude, meet Rosa, the best cook in New York.”

“In New York? In the world you mean. Pleased to meet you, Maude. Matt never brings any of his friends here. I always thought he was ashamed of us.”

“Never, Rosa,” Matt assured. “I was more ashamed of my friends. Maude is presentable though. Is there a single table left?”

“Ah, Matt, you know there’s always room for you,” Eduardo said, squeezing through the crowded room.

“Here, you two sit back and enjoy. I’ll cook whatever you want. You both look too thin. Take anything you want, it’s on the house,’” Rosa said leaving before Matt could protest.

Eduardo leaned over to Matt and said, “You know the only thing she wants is for you to sing on that stage. So, you do that when you’ve finished eating,” he said, winking to Maude as he left.

“They seem like really great people,” Maude beamed.

“They’re the best. And the food is amazing.”

“I don’t really know what to take. I’ve never eaten Mexican food before.”

“The Machaca is a great dish, you should try it.”

“Okay, if you say so.”

“All right, I’ll go tell them.”

Matt hurried to the back of the restaurant while Maude watched the musicians put their instruments to rest taking a break.

When Matt came back, he was carrying two large fruity drinks with tiny, red umbrellas perched on the rims.

“While we wait,” he said, placing a drink in front of her.

“This place looks great,” Maude said sipping her drink.

“I’ve been coming here for years. Anita was barely walking the first time I ever set foot here.”

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