The next few weeks at the boarding house seemed a blur. Every day was the same: get up, have a quick bite and some coffee, prepare breakfast for the boarders, clean the rooms, prepare lunch, and take a small break before having to get ready for dinner. Most of the faces were the same, and Maite was getting to know some of them pretty well. However, there was always a new face or two, someone popping in for a meal or a camp foreman who was in town gathering supplies. While Maite didn’t love the daily grind of the boarding house, she got to enjoy all of the characters that gave the house life.
She still hadn’t had any luck finding the zatia. She was convinced it wasn’t in the boarding house, but if it wasn’t there, she had no clue where it might be. Why was there a time bubble here if there was no zatia? And, if they never found the zatia, would they be stuck here for the rest of their lives? Maite didn’t know of any other way to pop the bubble and return to her own time.
It was early Friday morning and Maite was sitting at the table, enjoying her small breakfast and cup of coffee when Juan Jose walked in. He wasn’t normally up this early, so his presence startled Maite.
“Juan Jose! What are you doing up so early?”
The old man shrugged. “Just couldn’t sleep. My mind kept drifting back to the Basque Country and wouldn’t leave.” He sighed. “Mind if I join you?”
“Not at all,” said Maite as she waved to the seat across the table from her. “Let me get you a cup of coffee,” she added as she stood up. “Want anything to eat?”
“Ez, not yet. My mind is awake, but my belly is still alseep.”
Maite laughed as she brought Juan Jose a cup of coffee. “Extra milk and sugar, the way you like it.”
Juan Jose smiled. “Eskerrik asko.”
“Any big plans for the day?” asked Maite as she sat down again.
Juan Jose laughed. “You mean, besides trying to strike up a game or two of mus, like every other day? No, not really.”
“When was the last time you went home, went to the Basque Country?”
Juan Jose sighed again. “Too long. Like I told you before, I went back a few times not long after I first got here. I had a girl back home. The first time, I tried to convince her to come out here, that life was pretty good over here. But, the second time, she was already married. She didn’t want to come here and she got tired of waiting for me to come back.” Juan Jose took a sip from his cup and looked at Maite. “You know what hurt the most? The guy she ended up with, he was my best friend when we were kids. We were supposed to come out here together, become rich together. But, he got scared in the end and didn’t come. And he ended up with my girl.” Juan Jose shook his head as he looked down into the swirls of his coffee. “I probably should have stayed too.”
Juan Jose cleared his throat, took a sip, and looked up. “Anyways, what about you and that young man? What are your plans?”
Maite blushed. “We aren’t sure yet. We just want to get past this little adventure and then see what life has for us next.”
“Kontuz! Be careful! This ‘adventure’ as you call it has a way of keeping people trapped and not letting go. There’s another boarding house down the road… one of the boarders has been there for fifty years, if you can believe it!”
“Fifty years? Just living in one of these small rooms?”
“Hell, I’ve been in mine for ten years now. It’s not much, but it is comfortable, the people are good, and they keep you fed. And I can always find a card game.”
Maite shook her head. “No offense, but we hope to move on as soon as possible. Find the next adventure and all that.”
“I don’t blame you. When I was young, I was always looking for the next adventure. I never thought I’d be here, that’s for sure.”
Maite swallowed the last of her coffee. “Well, I better get working on breakfast. It’s been nice talking with you, Juan Jose.”
“Berdin,” replied the old man as his gaze returned to the dark pools of his coffee cup.
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