“Fishing?” He really doesn’t look the type.
“Yeah—some great catches in these coastal waters. The steelheads can grow way big.”
“True. My brother Elliot and I landed a thirty-four-pound steelhead once.”
“Thirty-four pounds?” José says, and he seems genuinely impressed. “Not bad. Ana’s father, though, he holds the record. A forty-three-pounder.”
“You’re kidding! He never said.” But Ray wouldn’t brag. That’s not his thing, just like his daughter.
“Happy birthday, by the way.”
“Thanks. So, where do you like to fish?”
“All around the Pacific Northwest. Dad’s favorite is the Skagit.”
“Really, that’s my dad’s favorite, too.” I’m surprised yet again.
“He prefers the Canadian side. Ray on the other hand prefers the American.”
“Lead to some arguments?”
“Sure, after a beer or two.” José grins and I settle in beside him at the kitchen counter. Maybe this guy’s not such a dick.
“So your dad likes the Skagit. What about you?” I ask.
“I prefer coastal waters.”
“Sea fishing is harder. More exciting. More of a challenge. I love the sea.”
“I remember the seascapes in your exhibition. They were good. By the way, thanks for dropping those portraits off.”
He’s embarrassed by the compliment. “No problem. Where do you like to fish?”
We discuss at length the merits of fishing in rivers, in lakes, and at sea. He’s passionate about it, too.
Ana makes breakfast and watches us—happy, I think, that we’re getting along.
She pops a steaming omelet and a coffee on the counter for each of us, and sits down beside me to eat her granola. Our conversation segues from fishing to baseball, and I hope we’re not boring her. We talk about the upcoming Mariners game—he’s a fan—and I realize that José and I have much in common.
Including loving the same woman.
The woman who has agreed to be my wife.
I’m dying to tell him, but I behave.
Once I finish my breakfast, I change quickly into jeans and a T-shirt. When I come back into the kitchen, José is clearing his plate.
“Ana, that was delicious.”
“Thank you.” She colors in response to José’s praise.
“I have to go. I have to drive out to Bandera and meet the old man.”
“Bandera?” I ask.
“Yes, we’re fishing for trout in the Mount Baker National Forest. One of the lakes near there.”
“I don’t think I know that one. Good luck.”
“Say hi to Ray for me,” Ana adds.
Arm in arm, Ana and I accompany José into the foyer.
“Thanks for letting me crash here.” He shakes my hand.
“Anytime,” I respond. And I’m surprised that I actually mean it. He seems harmless enough, like a puppy. He hugs Ana, and to my surprise, I don’t want to rip his arms off.
“Stay safe, Ana.”
“Sure. Great to see you. Next time we’ll have a real evening out,” she says, as he enters the elevator.
“I’ll hold you to that.” He waves from inside and the doors close.
“See, he’s not so bad,” Ana says.
“He still wants into your panties, Ana. But can’t say I blame him.”
“Christian, that’s not true!”
“You have no idea, do you? He wants you. Big-time.”
“Christian, he’s just a friend, a good friend.”
I hold up my hands in surrender. “I don’t want to fight.”
“You didn’t tell him we were getting married.”
“No. I figured I ought to tell Mom and Ray first.”
“Yes, you’re right. And I…um, I should ask your father.”
She laughs. “Oh, Christian—this isn’t the eighteenth century.”
And I never thought I’d have to ask any father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Give me this moment. Please.
“Let’s talk about that later,” she says. “I want to give you your other present.”
Nothing can top the keychain.
Her smile is mischievous and her teeth sink into her lower lip.
“You’re biting your lip again.” I tug gently at her chin. She gives me her coy look but she squares her shoulders, takes my hand, and drags me back into the bedroom.
From under the bed, she produces two wrapped gift boxes.
“I bought this before the, um…incident yesterday. I’m not sure about it now.” She gives me one of the parcels, but she looks anxious about it.
“Sure you want me to open it?”
I tear off the wrapping.
“Charlie Tango,” Ana whispers.
Inside the box are the parts for a little wooden helicopter. But the bit that blows me away is the rotor. “Solar-powered. Wow.” What a thoughtful gift. And from deep in my past, a memory surfaces. My first Christmas. My first proper Christmas with Mom and Dad.
My helicopter can fly.
My helicopter is blue.
It flies around the Christmas tree.
It flies over the piano and lands in the middle of the white.
It flies over Mommy and flies over Daddy.
And flies over Lelliot as he plays with his Legos.
With Ana watching, I sit down and start to assemble it. It snaps together easily, and I hold the little blue copter in my hand.
I love it.
I beam at Ana and go over to the balcony window, where I watch the rotors start to spin under the warm rays of the sun. “Look at that. What we can already do with this technology.” I hold the helicopter at eye level, watching how easily solar energy is converted to mechanical energy. The rotors spin and spin, faster and faster.