Casa de Solana, Wilton Park, Florida, Saturday evening, December 26, 2015
Sam followed the directions Ricky had given him. The little yellow house was in a quiet residential neighborhood several blocks off Wilton Drive. The street was lined with enormous ficus trees that overhung the roadway. Most of the homes had been renovated and the yards were attractively landscaped. It was obvious that the people who lived here enjoyed their community and took pride in their homes. It had a “lived in” feeling despite the fact that the sidewalks were not littered with tricycles and skateboards.
There was a small sign hand-painted on driftwood mounted beside the door that named the house Casa de Solana. Ricky opened the front door when Sam rang the bell. His hair was still wet obviously from a shower, and he wore a white shirt untucked over his jeans, boat shoes and no socks. “Come on in. I started the charcoal. I can put the steaks on in a while.”
Sam followed him into the house. “Nice place.” He glanced around and took in the details. The furniture hada second-hand look, but was pleasingly arranged and clean.
“Come on back to the kitchen while I finish throwing a salad together. Can I get you a drink? I have beer and I mixed a pitcher of margaritas.”
“Beer would be great. I’m not much for sweet drinks.” They walked into the kitchen. The little house was well-laid out but tiny. Ricky stuck his head into the old refrigerator.
“I have Heineken and Yuengling. Which would you prefer?”
“Yuengling. Thanks. So tell me more about the house.”
Ricky handed Sam the frosty bottle of beer and then stepped behind the kitchen island constructed of distressed lumber with a butcher-block top where he continued chopping vegetables and ripping lettuce for the salad. Sam sat down on a stool at the island. He liked watching Ricky—the way he moved and used his expressive hands.
Ricky smiled across the counter at Sam. “As you can see the kitchen still has the original 1940’s cabinets and countertops. My friends have contributed a collection of odd castoff dishes, silverware, pots, pans and appliances over the years.” A big bunch of sunflowers sat in an old watering can on the weathered wood kitchen table. He had picked them up at the grocery store on his way home from the salon. They made him happy.
“It has a pleasant, homey feeling.”
Ricky laughed. “That’s polite for ‘run-down’. I don’t care as long as I’m making slow but sure progress toward my renovation goals.”
“It looks like you’re doing a good job.”
“I’ll show you the rest later. Let’s sit out on the patio.” Ricky noticed that Sam’s eyes lit up when he stepped out into the garden. “This is my pride and joy. There was nothing here but some weeds and dirt when I bought the house. The big trees were here, of course, but nothing else.” Flames were jumping in the fire pit.
“Wow. Nice job.”
“Let me introduce you to Hermano y Conchita.” At Sam’s blank look, Ricky grinned and walked to the small, stone-edged pond. He opened a plastic jar and dropped a few Goldfish crackers into the water. Two fat, glistening black-and-gold koi swam to the surface and hoovered up the treats. “They are swimming appetites.”
“They’re gorgeous. Do they breed?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ve had the pond for a while, but I had to wait to get the fish.”
They sat on the sofa of the gently used wicker garden set Ricky had recently found at one of the consignment shops on Wilton Drive. It had been perfect for his patio. He’d been watching and waiting for just the right outdoor furniture that was in his budget to come up. He was patient if nothing else, and his eye was always on the end game. The garden was a masterpiece of tall, variegated grasses and textured foliage. Colorful hanging orchids and bromeliads nestled in the tall trees. He had built the small koi pond and the fire pit that he greatly enjoyed. Ricky was proud of his house. He had worked long and hard to turn the old wreck into a respectable home, and it was coming along.
“Your orchids are beautiful.”
“Thanks. They’re a lot of work. Some friends got me started with two, and it just grew from there. So, tell me about yourself, Sam.” Ricky took a sip of his margarita. He gulped as he watched Sam’s throat work as he swallowed a mouthful of beer.
“Well, I’m from Texas. I’m sort of a consultant to Homeland Security on the immigration mess, and I’m currently living in Washington. My family lives in Texas, and I have no significant other.” He grinned, and two deep dimples that Ricky hadn’t noticed before popped out. OMG. I thought he was handsome before, but with that smile and mischievous twinkle in his eyes he’s fucking gorgeous. He was certainly masculine with a broad, muscular body to die for. The well-tailored dark slacks and grey silk shirt he wore suited him to a T. Ricky thought he might start to hyperventilate. He had to get a grip if he didn’t want to come off like a silly high school girl on her first date.
“How do you like that—the Homeland Security gig, I mean. I immigrated legally. I was lucky to have the assistance of my family who are politically connected. I guess they wanted to get me out of sight, so they helped me. I had a green card for a while and then applied for citizenship. I’ll tell you I’m damn glad to be here. Things in Mexico are not so good. The cartels get more powerful every day.”
“That’s definitely true. I’ve been in public service since I graduated from college—various government positions and elected offices. I was surprised when the President appointed me to serve in Homeland Security in an advisory capacity. I’m a consultant on the ever increasing illegal immigration problem along our southern border. I’ve seen a lot of the devastation being a Texan.”