A Chance to Regret – Part 3

Soon enough, I had Chubs safely strapped onto the back of my motorcycle and we were off. Of course, I knew where I was going. Sure, the streets looked a little different and the old bodega was some 24-hour convenience store now, but the taqueria across the street was still the same old place. The paint was peeling and the windows were dark, but I remembered every inch of the inside. When I parked my bike, I stood by the windows and looked in, wondering if Maria’s folks still owned it. Probably. If they were alright, anyway. That brought me right back down to Earth. Would she meet me on the streets? Or did I have to go inside? First thing’s first, though, I had to unstrap the cat carrier from the back of my bike.
Carrier in hand, I went to the door of the taqueria and waited, uncertain. There were no lights on inside and the door didn’t budge when I pushed it. Then I heard a click and looked up fast. A man stood in the alley between the storefronts, a mask over the lower half of his face. But I recognized him without trouble. He was thinner than I’d remembered, paler too. It was like the color had been washed out of him. But there was no question he was Maria’s Papi. He looked me over, stepping out onto the sidewalk.
“She’s upstairs, Chiquita.” He held out a hand for the carrier and then pressed a mask into my hands. “I didn’t think we would be seeing you. Too dangerous.”
I shook my head and smiled ruefully.
“Well, no one ever said I was smart when it comes to Mari.”
Then I pulled the mask on, not quite sure why I needed it if we were going inside. I wasn’t sick and Chubs sure didn’t have whatever this mess was. Then a chill shot through me. What about Maria’s Mama? Was she alright?

Part 2: here
Part 1: here

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