Salsa with Me

Chapter I

“Your grandmother was injured doing the salsa?”

Marisol Acevedo felt herself flush as the emergency room nurse stared at her in obvious disbelief. Even to her own ears it sounded kind of crazy. A 70 year old grandmother attempting to learn the salsa? And being stepped on by a seventeen year old grandson?

“Yes,” she began, but her cousin Jose interrupted.

“It was my fault. I wasn’t being careful enough and I stepped on her foot.” He shot their grandma a contrite look.

“It’s not your fault,” Grandma Margarita said staunchly as she sat on the emergency room bed.

“We think her toe might be broken,” Marisol told the nurse. “I was trying to teach her to salsa—“

“For Yolanda’s wedding,” Grandma rushed on.

“Uh…well...” The nurse made a note on the paper attached to her clipboard. “Dr. Lares will be here in a moment to see you.” She escaped from the small examining room as if she was anxious to get away from a these loco people.

Marisol sent her cousin and grandmother a grin. “She thinks we’re crazy. It does sound kind of funny, doesn’t it?” She could just see the headlines: “70 Year Old Grandmother Injured While Performing Salsa Moves.”

Something was nagging at her memory, though. Something about the doctor’s name—where had she heard it before? She thought about it, breathing in the medicinal smell of the hospital.

“Dr. Lares,” murmured Grandma, “a nice name…”

“Dr. Alejandro Lares?” Hearing the surprise in her cousin’s voice, Marisol pivoted to look at him. He snapped his cellphone shut and came forward. “I still can’t reach your mother and father,” he said. “Or mine.”

Marisol sighed. “They must have turned off the cell phones again. Mama doesn’t like it when they’re visiting friends and the phone is always ringing. And Papa usually forgets his anyway.” Curious, she went back to her cousin’s question. “Do you know the doctor?”

“Everyone’s heard of Alejandro Lares,” Jose stated with typical teenage assurance. “They still talk about him at school, even though he graduated a long time ago.”

Then the name clicked in, and Marisol remembered why it sounded so familiar. “Not that long ago,” she said dryly. “Maybe five or six years before me? And yes, I heard stories about him too.” About the kid who read the encyclopedia for fun, when he’d finished his work way ahead of his classmates. About Alejandro being the first Hispanic student from their high school to be class valedictorian…and the only one to go to an Ivy League school. About his scholarships, his success on the soccer team, his getting into a good medical school…the list went on and on.

She hadn’t known he’d come back to the Dover area once he’d become a physician.

“He was on the soccer team—“ Marisol began, knowing how much her cousin loved soccer, when the curtain to the examining room was pushed aside and in walked the doctor.

The tag proclaimed him to be Dr. Alex Lares.

He might not be the standard “tall,” but the expression “dark and handsome” certainly fit. Dr. Lares was medium height, with thick, night-black hair and a classically handsome face. Straight nose, nice cheekbones, eyes that were a deep brown. His dark skin was smooth, and his handsome features wore an expression that was all business.

“Mrs. Soto?” he asked, moving over to grandma.

Marisol realized with a start that she must be staring at him. She quickly moved closer to her grandmother, turning to regard her.

Her grandmother was staring at him, too.

After a glance at the chart in his hand, he said “tell me what happened,” in a soothing tone.

Grandma began in English, “I was learning the salsa with my grandson Jose, and it was my fault, I got in the way—“

The doctor’s eyebrows shot up.

“No, Mamita,” Jose interrupted, calling her by the affectionate term they used. “It was my fault, I stepped on your toe—“

“No, no, it was my fault—“ Grandma overrode his voice. “And it hurts a little—“

“—a lot—“ Jose said.

“We think her toe may be broken,” Marisol finished.

Dr. Lares turned and looked at her.

Their eyes met, and she felt a spark race down to her toes.

Then he turned back to grandma. His tone was kind as he said, “tell me if this hurts.”

He prodded her toe, and grandma’s wincing was proof enough.

“It is not so very bad,” she added hastily, in Spanish.

“It may be broken, or perhaps it is a bad sprain,” he told her in Spanish too, his accent different than theirs and his wording more formal. He turned to look at Marisol again. “We will need to take an x-ray.”

Marisol nodded, concern for her grandmother overriding the instant attraction she felt towards the handsome doctor. What a time to be feeling something like this!

“I’ll have someone here to take you to x-ray in a few minutes,” he told Mamita. “Fortunately, we are not busy tonight, so we’ll get you right in.”

He disappeared, and Marisol stared at the spot where he’d stood moments ago.

Dr. Alejandro Lares was incredibly good-looking.

But she shouldn’t be thinking that now!

“He is handsome, si?” Grandma said in Spanish, echoing Marisol’s thoughts.

“Si,” she replied automatically, then turned to look at her grandmother. “Mamita—“

“And not married either,” her grandmother said, winking. “I checked. He wore no wedding ring.”

“That doesn’t always mean—“ Marisol stopped. She didn’t want her grandmother getting any ideas. After tonight, the good-looking doctor would be out of their lives. Did it matter that she felt a compelling attraction to the man?

Moments later, an assistant parted the curtains, and with a smile, he told them he was here to take grandma to x-ray.

While they waited, Jose went to the lobby to try Marisol’s parents on his cell phone again, hoping to get better reception. And Marisol was left to worry about her grandmother and to try to push away any romantic thoughts of the handsome doctor.

She glanced at her watch. Her young cousin Christina should be home from her friend’s house across the street any minute. She could call Christina and ask her to try and track down her parents. Christina was living with them for the rest of the school year and the next. Her dad had taken a job down in Florida and she wanted to stay up here in New Jersey to finish school, so it had been decided that she would stay at Marisol’s family’s home.

Or maybe Jose would get hold of his parents, who lived around the corner from Marisol’s, if he couldn’t reach her mom and dad.

Marisol noticed she wasn’t getting reception in this room, and decided to tell Jose to call Christina when he returned. In the meantime she didn’t want to leave the room, because she was hoping grandma would come back soon.

She was surprised and pleased when her grandmother was wheeled in a few minutes later, her face still looking calm, although Marisol knew she was in pain.

Jose returned. “I just got hold of them. They’re on their way over.”

Relief rushed through her. She might be 26 years old, but it was still nice to have parents to lean on.

The curtains parted and Dr. Lares came in again.

“I have good news,” he said in a cheerful voice. “Senora, you have a bad sprain, but your toe is not broken.”

Marisol felt another heady wave of relief.

“Just a sprain?” she asked, wanting to make sure she had heard right.

“Yes.” The handsome doctor turned towards her. “But a sprain can sometimes be even more painful than a broken bone. I’m going to give your grandmother some painkillers, for her to take when she needs them.” He turned back towards Grandma Margarita. “These could make you sleepy, so don’t drive if you’re taking them, or do too much. Or,” he added dryly, with a glance at Marisol and Jose, “don’t attempt the Salsa while under the influence of these pills.”

Grandma grinned. “I won’t, doctor.”

Marisol found herself smiling too. “We’ll make sure she doesn’t, but I’m afraid it was my fault. I was trying to teach her so she could salsa at cousin Yolanda’s wedding--“

“No, it’s not your fault, I asked for a lesson,” grandma interrupted. “Everyone’s learning for the wedding.” She shot the doctor a glance that Marisol thought looked almost flirtatious. “My granddaughter Marisol—“ she indicated her—“is one of the teachers at ‘Bailemos!’ And she agreed to help me.”

“Assistant teacher,” Marisol corrected her hastily. “I just help with an introductory class,” she told Dr. Lares.

The doctor raised his eyebrows. “That’s funny,” he said. “I signed up for a Tuesday class at ‘Bailemos!’ that starts next week.”

Marisol felt her pulse speed up.

“My cousin Pablo is getting married in August and I’m the best man. He insisted I needed to take this class with him and his fiancÚ so I could dance at their wedding,” Dr. Lares finished.

Marisol couldn’t help the spurt of excitement that was shooting through her. Dr. Lares would be in the class that she helped teach!

Grandma was practically beaming now. “Tuesday is when Marisol teaches,” she told the doctor.

“It is?” He turned to regard her again. Marisol wished she could decipher his expression. He seemed surprised—and possibly, she thought, glad? Or was that her overly active imagination?

“I’m only an assistant teacher,” she said hastily. “My ‘real’ job is, I’m a children’s librarian.”

“Ahh.” She wondered what that meant. He turned to grandma. “Of course, I never realized the Salsa was so dangerous,” he continued.