|Time For Proof of Change
Author: Diary PM
Re-posted. Bobby Talercio comes back home for the funeral. Complete.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Words: 3,649 - Favs: 1 - Published: 07-05-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7147791
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own Ugly Betty.
Bobby Talercio comes back home for the funeral.
The chipmunk is the one to answer the door, and she immediately hugs him, sobbing softly. He strokes her hair and rubs her back, wondering what to say.
"Betty, who is it?" Her father calls, appearing. He pauses when he sees Bobby, lips flattening into a frown. However, all he says is, "It's okay, mi amor," gently prying her away. To Bobby, he says, "Welcome. I thank you for coming."
The words are insincere, but he expects them to be.
Rosa Suarez was a friend. She didn't like him dating Hilda, but whenever her younger daughter needed a babysitter, he was the one she called, despite her husband's objections. He can't remember the number of times he sat in her kitchen, icepack to his bruises, while she made tea and scolded him in Spanish.
The last time he saw her, they sat together with her two-year-old grandson in McDonalds. Somehow, she'd known he was running, breaking parole, and getting out of Queens, away from his parents and everything else. Somehow, she'd managed to slip three hundred dollars in his pocket without him realising it until he was five cities away. You're always welcome on our couch, were her last words to him, her tone and body language telling him that she was serious but also, should he ever accept, it would be wise for him to never go near Hilda's room.
A little boy skips into the room, and this time, he can actually tell it's a little boy. The last time, the kid looked much younger than two and wore a pink pantsuit with matching socks, a fluffy white hat, and a safety bracelet that had a Disney princess on it. Of course, now the kid looks like he is two, but Bobby knows he must be four or five.
"Hi," Justin Suarez says, waving, as Bobby closes the door.
"Hey, little man," Bobby says, kneeling down.
Like last time, Justin sticks out his hand. Bobby offers his finger, which Justin shakes.
"Are you here to say bye to Grandma?"
Bobby looks over at Ignacio, who's still hugging Betty. He doesn't know exactly what the kid's been told, and the last thing he wants is to make things harder for the family.
"Yes, mijo," Ignacio answers, leading Betty into the kitchen. "Bobby was a friend of your grandma's."
"Bobby," Justin pronounces slowly and carefully, the name forming easier than it did last time.
Coming back into the room, Ignacio picks the little boy up. "We've explained that Rosa needs to help the angels," he tells Bobby, who stands up. "We won't see her for a long time, but we can still talk to her."
"Grandma made me a sweater," Justin says, happily.
Taking a shuddering breath, Ignacio says, "Yes, she did." To Bobby, he says, "Hilda's in her room. The funeral's at three. If you want to help, take Justin to the park for half an hour or so."
"It's okay, Papi," Betty says, appearing. "I can play with him."
Hilda must be crying, unable to deal with anyone. Ignacio's been cooking all morning, the smell of food heavy in the air. The chipmunk has circles under her red-stained eyes, looking paler than normal. Bobby can only imagine the amount of effort the two have put into keeping Justin occupied, safe from the grief, and out of his mother's way.
"Nah," Bobby says, reaching over to take the little boy. "You need to sleep, chipmunk. Don't worry, I never lost you or let you get hurt."
She turns red. "T-that's not- Uh. I just mean-"
"He's right, mija," Ignacio says, gently. "You need to try to sleep."
Five minutes later, Betty has handed him a bag, strapped Justin in a stroller, and is giving him even more instructions. "I left money for snacks and the pay phone in the right pocket. He doesn't like hot dogs, but he might want some ice-cream. Don't get him chocolate; he says it makes his tongue itch. Strawberry's his favourite, but vanilla's fine."
"Sweetie," Bobby says, amused, reaching over to pinch her cheeks, "I'm not an amateur. Justin and I will have fun. Right, buddy?"
"Right," Justin echoes, too busy re-beading a necklace to really pay attention to the conversation.
"Right," Betty says. "Oh! If he gets dirty, give him the spare clothes I packed and send him into the ladies room. Don't worry about him; he knows how to navigate it by himself. Whatever you do, don't take him into the men's room," she warns in such a way that Bobby wonders what exactly the story is.
"Betty," Ignacio says, coming in with a sippie cup. Handing it to his grandson, he leads her away, softly speaking Spanish. He looks back as he does, nodding for Bobby to go.
At the park, when Bobby gets Justin out of the stroller, Justin pretty much ignores him, twirling around and softly singing some song Bobby doesn't recognise.
A little old lady sits down next to him, giving his leg a sympathetic pat. "He lives in his own world. It's nice of you to come back for her funeral."
Nodding, he asks, "Do you know how Hilda's doing? She was in her room when I came over."
"As long as Santos stays away, she'll be fine."
"He's still around?"
"Of course," she answers. "It'd be better if he left, but he's a Queens boy, and she's a Queens girl. Only death will get him to leave." Sighing, she says, "Hilda will be fine. If you came back just for her, you need to remember she has that little boy now."
As if on cue, Justin skips over. "Ice-cream, please?"
"Sure, buddy," Bobby answers, digging out his wallet. "Miss Nixon, you want some?"
Shaking her head, she leans down and kisses Justin on the forehead. "No, thank you. It's nice to see you plan to actually pay, this time," she comments.
"I deserve that," he acknowledges, picking Justin up. "And I came back because Mrs Suarez was my friend."
"What kind do you want?"
"Strawberry, please," Justin says, waving to the ice-cream girl. "Pretty dress!"
Grinning, the teenager says, "Aw, your son is a sweetie."
"I'm babysitting him for a friend," Bobby says, handing the money over and accepting the small container of ice-cream.
"Hey, wait a minute, sir," she says as he starts to leave. Digging out a magazine from her purse, she says, "Is it alright if I give him a present? It's a Mode magazine. They have pictures of all the latest fashions."
"Sure," Bobby says, not seeing how it could hurt. He takes the magazine. "Thank you."
Nodding, she waves bye to Justin, who returns it.
They sit down, and Justin surprises him by saying, "Aunt Betty's a chipmunk."
"Yeah," Bobby agrees, leaning back. He picks the kid up and sets him on his lap. "I babysat her when she was your age. Not really sure how that nickname got started."
"I miss Grandma," Justin confides.
"I know, kiddo," Bobby says, sighing. "We all do."
"Mommy keeps crying."
"It's sad when people go to visit the angels," Bobby tells him. "But your grandma's still around; you just can't see her. Or hear her."
"I do during naptime," Justin answers, frowning as some ice-cream drips on Bobby's pants.
"It's alright," Bobby assures him, dapping at the pants with a napkin. "Dreams are different. Sometimes, when we sleep, angels can come into our dreams."
"So, is Grandma an angel?"
"Yeah," Bobby answers. "She was. And now, she's going to get her wings."
"I told Mommy I wanted to visit her." Sighing, Justin says, "That made her cry."
"You didn't upset her," Bobby assures him, quickly, not liking the look on Justin's face. So far, he's been calm, but now, he looks like he might cry. Bobby's always hated dealing with crying people, Betty being one of the worst.
Justin looks at him in sceptical hope.
"Really," Bobby assures him. "Your mommy is just going to be sad for awhile. She might cry at weird times."
"Grandma was teaching me how to sew."
Bobby isn't sure how to respond to that. He doesn't know if Hilda, Betty, or Ignacio know how to sew, and he doesn't know if the family's financially able to pay someone to teach him.
Getting an idea, he picks Justin up, standing. "Come on, kiddo. I need to make a quick call to your grandpa."
"And you're sure you have enough money for more wipes? There's only six left in the package. Justin can be high-maintenance when he gets dirty. Wait, Papi, I have to tell him about-"
Ignacio comes onto the phone, Betty's voice still present in the background. "Have my grandson back by two-fifty, and pretend that my wife is still here and you're babysitting Betty. If you wouldn't take her somewhere, don't take Justin."
"Papi!- Please, just give-"
Amused, Bobby says, "Got it, Mr Suarez. Bye, chipmunk!" He hangs up the phone, laughing.
"Okay, little man," he says to Justin, who's happily looking at pictures of half-clothed women, "lets get you back in the stroller." Bobby briefly wonders if he should be worried about a little boy looking at such images. He settles for asking, "Any boys in the magazine?"
Nodding dismissively, Justin says, "Not pretty."
"I'm not sure if this is you going against all the stereotypes or not," Bobby comments, strapping him in. "Either way, as look as you don't get a girl pregnant or fall for a bad boy, I think your mama's gonna be okay with whatever happens."
"Pregnant is when a lady has a baby in her tummy," Justin tells him, nodding in pride at his knowledge. "Mommy was pregnant with me."
"Yep," Bobby answers, feeling a pang. When Hilda was pregnant, he was in jail. Behind hearing his parents finally disclaim him, not being around to help is one of his biggest regrets about being sent to jail. He's not sure exactly what he could have done, but he could have tried.
His parents, however, were there almost every time he was allowed visitors and insisted he live with them during his parole rather than at a half-house. If he hadn't run, he's sure he could have mostly repaired the damage. But there's no going back in time, back to when he could have done something about the taunts, could have told her she was still beautiful even as she gained weight, could have held her hand during ultrasounds.
Then, again, he muses, he could have tried being there when he got out. The month before he ran, he didn't see any of them until he stopped at McDonald's for a burger and heard a cashier refuse to give Justin a Snow White toy instead of a boy one.
On the bus, Justin fusses, making tiny little 'eep' noises whenever a person comes near or the bus hits a bump, occasionally waving his hands and brushing off unseen dirt.
Bobby isn't sure which of the two are more relieved when they finally get to their stop.
"I don't like buses," Justin informs him, crossly.
Sighing, Bobby digs out the gummy bears and Graham crackers Betty packed and hands them to the little boy.
He rolls the stroller down the street, stopping at a little brick church. One of the nuns, Sister Louise, is weeding the garden, and she looks at him with sharp eyes, still unforgiving of the time he decided to set off a stink bomb inside. However, her eyes change when they fall on the stroller. Bobby says, pre-emptively, "Babysitting for a friend."
She stands, and Bobby's offended by the look she gives him, as if she doesn't believe him.
Really, it's all about standards. He's been a liar, a thief, a vandal, and a smart-ass, but he's not like Santos. If he'd gotten a girl pregnant, he might not have married her, but he would have helped with the kid. He can take people calling him almost anything with a grin, but he's never hurt a woman or been a deadbeat dad.
They go inside, Justin ignoring the truck and balls she tries to offer him in favour of reaching for the dolls, undressing and re-dressing them, studying them critically each time. She doesn't look happy, and Bobby says, quietly, "His grandma just died; she was teaching him how to sew."
"Poor child," she says, sympathetically. "I'm sure one of the ladies in our sewing circle would be happy to teach him."
Bobby starts to say thank you, but she continues, like he expected her to but was hoping she wouldn't, with, "Is his father in the picture?"
"No," he answers. According to Rosa, Santos came by once when Justin was a baby. She didn't go into specific details on what he had done (whatever it was, there was yelling, crying, and a broken glass pitcher), but she had fervently told Bobby that Santos was permanently banned, from the house and from her grandson's life.
"Perhaps, he needs a father-figure," Sister Louise says, disapprovingly, watching as Justin makes two little girl dolls dance.
Bobby sees that this idea was another not-so-great one of his.
He remembers when he was thirteen, he beat up a gay boy. There's no excuse for it. He was just a stupid, mean kid who saw an easy target and took it.
But he's not the same punk who left all those years ago. So, he sits down on the floor and says, "Hey, buddy, what's the story?"
Justin looks up from his dolls, giving Bobby a suspicious look. However, it's quickly quashed by his desire to let someone else into his world, and he points to the black doll and says, "This Jackie; she's going to be an astronaut, but she's going to wear pretty clothes and purple helmet with glitter on it, like the one Grandpa bought for, except it was black, and Mommy and I painted it, and Aunt Betty brought home the glitter. And this is Jackie's friend, her name is..."
Sister Louise wonders off, and he imagines she's pursing her lips and shaking her head. She's likely thinking: Bobby Talerico is corrupting children, now.
After the story's over, he straps Justin back in, and Sister Louise gives him the contact information for Hilda. "God be with you," she says, sincerely.
"Thanks, Sister," he says.
The bus ride isn't any better the second-time around, and Bobby ends up buying Justin a cheap hat from a pawn shop, knowing there will be trouble if he brings back a grumpy, fussy child.
When they get back, Ignacio looks at him in suspicious disbelief. Betty looks at him with relieved pride. Hilda is there, eyes red and puffy, dressed in a baggy sweater and worn pair of jeans. She opens her arms to her little boy, ignoring everyone else.
Ignacio motions for him to come to the kitchen while the chipmunk and Justin discuss what they should dress Hilda in. As he leaves, he feels a sharp pang as he hears her mutter, "Ai, I'm not a doll, honey. Betty, stop encouraging him."
"Thank you," Ignacio says, and it's actually sincere.
Nodding, Bobby gets out the contact info. "Look, Mr Suarez, I don't know if you or the girls can sew, but I know a nun who has a sewing group. Here's her number, if you want it."
Bobby imagines Ignacio will throw it away, later. He probably won't even tell Hilda and the chipmunk.
There's an awkward silence, and Bobby debates inwardly what to say. I'm not a punk, any more? I think your wife would finally be proud of me? I wish I'd come back a year ago and been here for her?
Before he can say anything, however, the others appear. Betty and Hilda both wear long, black dresses, the latter's strapless, and Justin is in a little black suit with a bowtie. He waves to Bobby from Hilda's arms, and she finally looks at him. His breath catches, and he gives her a soft smile. "How you holding up," he asks.
She nods, eyes still teary and puffy, her nose swelling. "Thank you for taking Justin for awhile," she non-answers. "He told me all about Jackie and Marissa," she says, a fond smile forming.
Ignacio takes a shuddering breath. "It's time, mijas," he says, voice breaking slightly.
"I'll carry Justin," Bobby offers.
After the funeral, the chipmunk hugs him tightly as they sit on the couch. "Thank you, Bobby."
He kisses her cheek. "Are you and the others going to be okay?"
Sniffling, she nods. "Yeah. Justin's going to start school soon. And Papi-" She trails off, tears falling.
"Hey," he says, softly, rubbing her back. It's teenage him and little her, all over again. "Listen to me, chipmunk, ain't nothing gonna happen to your dad. He made a promise to your mother to always be there for you, Hilda, and Justin. And he's never been one to make promises he didn't intend to keep."
"Dad never made any-"
"You might not have heard it, and he might not have told you," Bobby interrupts, "but he did. I know Rosa, and I know she would have made him promise. He has the three of you to live for."
She gives him a watery smile. "What about you," she asks. "Hilda was glad to see you," she offers.
Shrugging, Bobby answers, "Ship's past, Betty. She has her life and son, and I'm still figuring my own out. It wouldn't take long until it was a repeat of us at fifteen."
Nodding, she kisses his cheek. "I'm going to go give Justin his bath. Thank you so much for coming."
"Take care of yourself, baby girl," he says.
"Goodbye, Mr Suarez."
Ignacio looks up. "Please, don't come to my house again. I have to worry about Santos showing himself now; I don't need to worry about you, as well."
Bobby starts to retort, but then, he remembers Ignacio lost his wife. Besides that, getting needlessly angry over things hasn't gotten him to a very good place in life, has it?
"I am sorry for her death," Bobby tells him. "She was a good friend."
Nodding, Ignacio buries his hands in his head.
Bobby quietly goes upstairs before he leaves, stopping close to the bathroom.
"Grandma wanted pictures of me on my first day," Justin says. "She made me clothes that looked like pictures in the pretty magazine."
"I know, baby," Hilda, rather than Betty, answers. "But you can still wear the clothes she made, and your Aunt Betty can take the pictures. Then, we can mail some to heaven."
"Will Grandma send us mail from there?"
"She'll send mail in our dreams," Hilda answers, taking a ragged breath.
"Mommy?" Suddenly, Justin's voice is serious. "Are you going to go to heaven, too?"
There's the sound of water moving, and Hilda answers, "Not for a long time. Look, papito, there are going to be times when things are going to hard. And sometimes, you're gonna have Betty and Grandpa there to help you, and sometimes, you're not. But I promise you, me and you are a team. There are gonna be times when the world's against us, but I love you, and I'm never going to leave you to face it alone. Do you understand?"
"We're a team," Justin repeats.
Bobby silently goes downstairs and slips out the door.
Once his mother and father have let him breathe, he says, "I'm going to turn myself in. Uh, I came by to see if maybe I could have a chance at the family business once I get out."
Selling and fixing cars has never been on his goal list; he's always scoffed at the family business, declaring he'll have no part of it. But he's good at fixing cars, and it's time he gets a legit job. He knows he has a better chance of convincing his family to hire him than anyone else, especially with his record.
"Why the change of heart," his father asks, earning a stern look from his mother.
Before she can say anything, Bobby says, "It's a fair question, Ma. I've done a lot of changing, Dad. And I'm ready to start proving that to you, and Mom, and the world."
"Welcome home," his father says, hugging him. "You're going to let your mother cook you a nice meal, and then, take a shower. We can drive you to the station in the morning."
Bobby knows his parent's aren't convinced; he can see it in their eyes. They just want so desperately to believe. For the first time, he does, too. And he's going to do more than just believe; he's going to make it happen.