Marísol Hernandez was more than just a pretty girl, she was la hija de Gael Santiago Hernandez, el cocinero of the acclaimed Los Angeles restaurant Carmela’s. Like the Hispanic Gordon Ramsey of the culinary world, Gael raised Marísol to learn a multitude of harsh culinary techniques, which included more than a few nails being either chipped or a fingertip close to a cruel and unusual punishment, “careless knife work,” as he would say. And up and until yesterday, Marísol lived vicariously through the various celebrities that visited the restaurant.
“Dad,” Her father looked up, but not at her. His eyes averted her gaze and scanned the order sliding into view. The order was scribbled quickly, almost like a chicken scratch. But Carmela’s was employed solely by the extended Hernandez family. Tías, tíos, cousins and the family Marísol vaguely knew of who were busy rambunctiously traversing through the kitchen; pots and pans clanking and knives slicing as loud as the chimes being gossiped. “Papá,” she demanded, but his attention left the order and into the pot of albondigas.
“Gael,” Her grandmother’s voice echoed from the pot she had been stirring, and from the steam, I could see the arch of her penciled brows. Under her breath, she scolded her son in her thick Mexican accent, “era una niña con ambiciones.” Marísol pressed her palms into the cold, metal table top, she hadn’t expected her father to be this irritated.
He turned toward his daughter and sighed, “Didn’t I raise you better than to steal from your own father?” he said in his best English. Something she admired was his Spanish laced English- prominent and smooth. But she couldn’t ignore the fact that she ‘misplaced’ two-hundred dollars could she. It was nothing bad, you see, Marísol is much more than a cheap thief. She had wanted the gown for homecoming that her father wouldn’t dare approve of. ‘Too much boobage’ he’d say, or worse he probably wouldn’t have let her leave their house. Marísol wanted more than what her father could decide on, something she could keep.
“Apa. You don’t understand! If I didn’t buy-” her voice lowers just to a mere breath, “-the dress I wanted-”
“Como … Marísol … I’m busy cocinando-” He brushed passed her and swiped the chopped vegetables into the large pot, “-We’ll talk about this tomorrow morning.” And with a simple brush of his large, calloused hand, he rushed off across the too large a kitchen, fading into the crowd of white uniforms and orders spinning from pots into plates. Her grandmother reached from behind her over the perch atop the bananas holding in the pan. She spills the sweet crema into the pan and Marísol breathes deeply, inhaling the bubbling and crisping golden banana covered in milk and honey, “¿Como la casa, no?” Her grandmother smiles, noticing Marísol’s enjoyment.
“¿Puedo probarlo?” Her grandmother is one step in front of her as she spoons for a glazed banana and spoons it into her mouth. She relishes in the intensity of the taste, and the bourbon that her grandmother had doused it in. It was intense, to say the least. She smiles as she walks away, kissing her grandmother’s cheek.
She steps outside, the sun just grazing the buildings as it fell steeper and steeper, however slow it seemed, the sky changed quickly from its golden haze to a warm cascading rush of violets and blues. And just as a car horn blares into her ear, Marísol yelps as arms crash into her, holding her close. She scrambles out of reach and turns to find Tate Hyuk, the boy she had been admiring since middle school. The sly-faced, hair-falling-just-past-his-forehead with a contagious laugh boy who had found her irresistible. “You asshole!” She gasps as she rushes over, giving him a good knock on his shoulder.
“Ow,” He laughs, holding his shoulder tightly. Tate was wearing her favorite shirt, the long-sleeved, black shirt that hugged his toned chest. She smiles shyly, so unlike herself when she’s around him. She was unaware of the shy affect that he caused on her. He was older -by a mere year, and taller -to which she felt intimidated by, but nonetheless she loved his big, brown almond shaped eyes. “Let’s go get some coffee, yea?”
They walked hand-in-hand, toward a little hole-in-the-wall down the street ‘Café Azul’. The little coffee shop was run by a close confidant of her father’s, someone who was rather too close. But she liked Vanessa Gomez. She was spunky and not too young. She was old enough to be Marísol’s mother in fact. She was tall and curvy, with curly black hair that fell past her forearm. She catches sight of Marísol and Tate, rushes their orders and calls out to them as they step out, “Not too late girlfriend.”
“And how do you say, kiss me?” Tate asks. His crooked smile curling upward.
Marisol smiles shyly, “besa me.”
“I love you,” he says, and she carefully sips her green tea latte afraid of what’s to come next. He turns and pulls her in close, her back against the side of a wall.
“¿Siempre?” She laughs into his neck.
“What’s that mean again?” Tate laughs, curling her wavy hair around his finger.
She bites her lower lip as she looks up at him, “Forever.”