A few days later, Maite found herself sitting at a small table outside one of her favorite tabernas on the plaza in Gernika. She took a sip of her cortado. “I guess it is only fair that he keeps me waiting this time,” she thought to herself.
She saw Kepa appear from around the corner, recognizing his dark curls from blocks away. She smiled as he approached the cafe, scanning the crowd. When he saw her, he smiled. She stood as he approached, and they traded kisses on the cheeks. As they sat down, Maite said “Sorry I didn’t order for you, I wasn’t sure what you would want.”
“No worries,” said Kepa, waiving to the waitress at the bar. The young blond woman, wearing a short apron over her white blouse and black slacks, came up to their table.
“A caña, mesedez.”
The woman nodded as she headed back towards the bar.
“It is good to see you,” Kepa said. “I’ve missed you.”
Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!
Maite laughed. “I bet you did. Sorry for how I left you last time.”
“No, no,” said Kepa, shaking his head, “it was wonderful. But, I admit, I’m very confused.”
Maite sighed. “Kepa, sometimes…” She was interrupted by the waitress who placed Kepa’s beer on the table.
“Mil esker,” he said absentmindedly, staring alternatively at Maite and his beer.
“Look, Kepa,” said Maite, leaning forward in her chair. “You are my best friend and I love hanging out with you. But, I want something more. And I think you might too. But, right now is also a difficult time for me. I’m about to finish school and I need to figure out what I’m doing next.” She sighed again, flopping back into her chair. “I don’t know what to do.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kepa.
“I mean,” replied Maite, the emotion rising in her voice, “that I don’t know if I should pursue things with you or not. If I should go to America or not. If I…”
“Go to America?” interrupted Kepa. “What?”
“I’ve been tentatively accepted to a graduate program in the United States,” replied Maite, her eyes darting back and forth, looking at everything except Kepa.
“What do you mean tentatively?”
“Final acceptance depends on a visit and an interview,” she said.
“What do your parents think?” asked Kepa.
“I haven’t told them,” replied Maite, her eyes welling up with tears. “How can I? I can’t hurt them like that.” She looked into Kepa’s eyes. “I don’t know what to do.”
Kepa reached out across the table and took Maite’s hands. He gave her that crooked little smile that always made the butterflies flutter in her stomach. “Your parents are the strongest people I’ve ever known. Yeah, sure, it will be hard, but they will be fine. And, it’s only an interview, right? You don’t have to make a decision yet.”
“What about you?” asked Maite. “I don’t want to hurt you either.”
“Me?” answered Kepa, his smile widening. “I’m coming with you. I’ve always wanted to see America.”