The fallout from his confrontation with the two boys was not over yet. Before he had had time to gather up his briefcase and go, Delores Zavala came over to him. She was clearly embarrassed, and the first thing she said was, “I’m sorry for the way Duarte acted today. I am really angry with him. He had no reason to cause you so much trouble.”
In the two weeks she had been working with him, Neil had gotten almost used to Delores’ self-effacement. She was much closer to the traditional picture of a Mexican woman than Carmen. He made light of the incident, then said, “Why are you apologizing for Duarte? You told me you weren’t married, so I didn’t make any connection between you and him.”
“He is my brother’s boy. My brother took his family back to Mexico a month ago, but Duarte does so well in school that I talked him into leaving him with me. If he went back there he couldn’t do anything. He doesn’t read or write Spanish.”
That, Neil knew, was a real problem for those families who went back and forth between Mexico and the United States. The brightest children leaned to speak, read, and write English, but they were illiterate in Spanish. They could speak the lower class Spanish used in their homes, but they usually could not read or write it. Worse, their dialect was no more suitable for a good Mexican school than an American hillbilly dialect would have been suitable for a high school in Boston.
Neil assured Delores that he had the matter under control. She did not contradict him, but her expression showed no faith in him.
# # #
By the time he got to the parking lot, Neil had heard all he wanted to hear about Sean and Duarte; but he had not heard all he was going to hear. Fiona was waiting for him, standing in the open doorway of her car. Sean was sitting in the passenger’s seat, looking very unhappy. At least Fiona was smiling. She said, “I want you to come over for dinner tonight.”
Nothing could have been further from Neil’s expectations. Few things would have been less welcome. He was in no mood; he said so, very politely.
“Nonsense. I’m cooking hamburgers on the grill. I’d like to feed you and then talk to you.”
“I’m sure Sean would not like to talk to me.”
“You’re right there. Sean isn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, including me — especially me. He is going to eat before you get there, and then he is going to his room without TV, stereo, or anything he likes to read. For the rest of the week I am going to be childless from four P.M. until morning. I do not intend to be embarrassed by my own son’s behavior in the future.”
Fiona shot Sean a look with this last statement and he glowered but did not contradict.
Feeling trapped, Neil agreed to arrive at five.
# # #
When Neil got to Fiona’s, she escorted him directly to the back yard and put two waiting hamburger patties on the grill. She had changed to a faded blouse, knotted in front to expose her midriff, and very short shorts that left her long, lean legs exposed to the cooling wind. Her red hair was a fluffy cloud around her head. Neil began revising his estimation of why he was there, and his opinion of her looks. more tomorrow