Soon, they all found themselves downtown. Javi led them to a small pub tucked in a corner.
“This is one of my favorite places. Low key, but good food. And good beer if you want it. Julie’s going to meet us here.”
As Javi checked in with the host, Kepa noticed a woman sitting at a table waving at them.
“Is that her?” he asked, pointing to the redheaded woman.
Javi smiled. “Bai, that’s her!”
Julie stood as they made their way to the table, her smile beaming. She was wearing a floral-print sundress that didn’t quite reach her knees. Her red hair was matched by freckles on her cheeks, making Kepa think she must have Irish ancestry. She gave Javi a hug and a kiss.
“Thanks for snagging a table for us!” said Javi after they broke their kiss.
“No problem!” She turned her attention to the other two. “You must be Kepa. Javi’s told me so much about you.” She gave Kepa a kiss on each cheek. “And you are Maite? Javi told me about his childhood crush on you; I understand why!” She gave Maite a kiss on each cheek as well.
“Mil esker…?” questioned Maite as she sat down. “Seems I’m the only one who didn’t know about Javi’s crush.”
Javi blushed. “Well, that was a long time ago. Now, Julie has my heart.”
“How are you liking California? It’s your first time here, right?” asked Julie.
“So far, it’s been great,” replied Kepa. “I admit, a bit more… how do you say? Rugged or less glamorous than what I expected from the movies.”
“Once you get away from the coast,” said Javi, “it’s like anywhere else. Ranches and farms, and no movie stars.”
Maite laughed. “We certainly haven’t seen any movie stars yet! Though Kepa is still hoping to bump into Jon Hamm.”
Julie returned her laugh. “So would I!” she said with a wink.
It was Kepa’s turn to blush. “It’s not like that…” he began.
“I’m just teasing,” interrupted Julie. She turned to Maite. “Javi said you were thinking about going to Berkeley?”
Maite shrugged. “Thinking about it. That’s why we came out here, so I could interview with one of the professors. And I think it went well. But, they haven’t made a decision yet. And, besides, I don’t know if I can leave my parents behind.”
“I can understand that,” said Julie. “It isn’t quite the same, but I moved here from Boston. All of my family is back there. It took me a while to get used to being out here on my own.” She reached over and squeezed Javi’s hand. “Having Javi has sure helped a lot.”
Maite nodded. “My parents are older and I would just hate to not be there if they needed anything. I’m an only child, so they don’t have anyone else to help.”
Javi shrugged. “It’s what my dad did, leave everything there behind to come out here. But it was hard for him. When his dad died, he couldn’t make it back for the funeral. I think that always gnawed at him.”
“It had to be so hard, coming out here to be a sheepherder,” said Julie.
“You have no idea,” replied Kepa, with an air of authority. Javi and Julie looked at him, quizzically. “Or so I imagine,” he sputtered.
Javi gave his cousin a strange look before continuing. “It’s funny, when my dad first came over, he’d call home maybe once a year. It was so expensive. But, now, he’s on his cell phone talking to his brother back home almost every day. It’s amazing how the world changes.”
“I agree,” said Maite. “It certainly wouldn’t be as hard for me to come out here as it was for people like your dad. But, it’s still far away.”
Javi nodded as the waiter came to take their orders.
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