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Amanda returns ten minutes later, excited to leave the cabin with her son for the first time in months. Julian stands up from his place by the fire and asks if she is ready to go. “Yes” Amanda replies and he says, “Follow me.” After checking with his men that the door is open and the coast is clear, they all proceed to his truck, parked on the side of the cabin closest to the window.
Amanda has her list in hand and looks down at Ethan as they walk to the truck. He is staring in amazement at the sparkly snow covering everything as far as he can see. He is excited to be out as well and now asks his mom if they can go to McDonald’s while they are in town getting groceries and other provisions. She looks to Julian who nods in agreement, “Sounds like a plan young man, maybe your mom and I can have that coffee sooner than later.” Amanda smiles and mouths thank you above Ethan’s head.
It takes them an hour just to get there, even though the roads are somewhat plowed, they are still treacherous. Piling out of the truck, wrapped in coats, scarves and sweater hats, the group trudges into McDonald’s for a fast food treat and hot beverages. Ethan gets pancakes and hot chocolate and the adults pick at eggs and bacon while drinking cup after cup of coffee. They have so much to talk about and seem to be totally at ease with each other.
“So you mentioned earlier that you have a daughter” Amanda asks Julian, simultaneously picking at an english muffin. “She’s not really my daughter, I’m her foster Dad,” Julian replied. “Oh, that’s so wonderful Julian. You must have a huge heart to do something like that. How old is she?” Blushing, Julian answered, “She is five, and she has a disability. She came to me after a friend shared the news that her parents were killed in Matamoros, and since I was in the system to be a foster parent, they picked me. I’ve been caring for her ever since. The problem is, Mexico has very limited resources for healthcare of this nature, so when I’m here I work to earn as much as possible, network with other people in the know and take what I’ve earned and learned back to Mexico.”
Amanda has been rapt, listening to his story, food forgotten on the plate as she sips her coffee and stares at this man, trying to understand how hard his life must be. “You are truly an angel sir. I already knew that because of your generosity in dealing with us, but now you tell me this unbelievable story. Your heart is huge indeed! What is her issue, if you don’t mind me asking?” Julian stares back at Amanda and before he replies he gives her a seductive little wink. “I’m no angel ma’am, I have my own story. Like how I was born here but ended up in Mexico, but we can talk about that some other time. No, I don’t mind you asking…She has ASD, autism spectrum disorder-she has trouble with social, emotional and communication skills, sort of like Asperger’s.” All this time, Ethan has been quietly eating and listening to Julian and now he looks up and asks, “Can she play with other kids ok?” Julian winks at him and answers, “Kind of, she has her own special way of playing and needs someone very patient to show her how to be nice and play fair.” Ethan considers his answer, nods his head and goes back to eating his pancakes.
Meanwhile, Amanda has been secretly wishing she could give this man a medal, but settles for a hug and stands up to deliver one. “You are amazing Mr Julian, and I would love to hear more, but we really need to get to the store and get back home so you can get back to your work, or wherever you’re going next.” Julian is surprised by the sudden hug and responds that he isn’t in a big hurry but her request is his command. “And you don’t have to call me Mr., I will call you Amanda if you’ll just call me Julian. Amanda nods in agreement and together they all head back to the truck for the next destination in their journey, some big everything-you-need-in-one-place store.