Chapter 17: Susana rejoins Chris in Texas

Chris had almost reached the spot in West Texas where Susana left off by the time she returned to the racecourse. When he and Josh finished their afternoon run that day, he broke into a big smile at the sight of Debora’s motor home in the campground. “Hey, look! Susana’s back!”

Josh flashed a knowing grin. “So’s my mom. Doesn’t she merit a mention?”

“I think I smell chicken enchiladas,” Chris said, sniffing the air. And he was right. Susana had spent the afternoon cooking up a big meal, including enchiladas, and they all enjoyed the results at dinner. When Josh and Debora got up to clear the dishes, Susana jumped to her feet. “No! I’ll take care of—”

“You’ve been cooking all afternoon,” Josh interrupted. “We can do the dishes.”

“But—” Susana began.

“Perhaps you two would enjoy a walk?” Debora said.

“But—” Susana began again.

This time it was Chris who interrupted with a hearty laugh.

Susana frowned at him. “What’s so funny?”

“Can’t you see what they’re doing?”

“Yeah, my dirty dishes.”

“They’re trying to give us a chance to be alone.” Chris whispered this, but in the motor home, it was audible to everyone.

Susana looked at Debora and Josh, who were exchanging smiles. “Oh,” she said, and dipped her blushing face.

Chris led her outside. “Sorry I embarrassed you,” he said as they walked. “Or maybe I’m not. It’s cute, the way you duck your head when you blush.”

She smiled sheepishly. “I should have caught on. I’m kind of new at this dating stuff.”

“Why does that embarrass you? It’s not like there’s something wrong with you.”

“Of course there is! It’s these scars that—”

He drew her close and put a finger to her lips. “You are the most incredible girl I’ve ever met. There’s nothing wrong with you. The problem is with the people who can’t see past your scars.”

* * *

The next morning Chris swung his bare feet to the ground, only to spy a scorpion just a few inches from his foot, its tail curled up and ready to strike.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed as he jerked his feet back up. He reached for a shoe, but noticed that, strangely, the scorpion didn’t move. Then he remembered that Susana was back and became suspicious. Grabbing a nearby pencil, he gingerly poked at the critter. It bounced.

Chuckling, Chris impaled the rubber scorpion on the pencil, pulled on some pants, and flung open the door of the motor home. Experience had taught him that Susana liked to be nearby when her pranks were discovered. Sure enough, she was standing right outside the motor home, giggling.

Chris presented her with the skewered animal. “I do believe you’ve lost your pet scorpion, ma’am.”

Through laughter she cried, “Oh no! You killed it.”

©iStock.com/YanLev

©iStock.com/YanLev

And so began their first day back on the road. After not running together for five months, Chris appreciated Susana’s company more than ever. They laughed at everything from cloud formations to bugs’ antics. And when they decided to sing along with The Manual’s songbook on their tezursas, they laughed at themselves because, of course, it’s hard to sing on key when you’re running. Before Chris knew it, they’d finished the day’s run and were at their new campsite near Waco.

That evening, Chris took Susana out to dinner. On their way to the restaurant, they passed a shop that turned pictures into key rings, so they had their picture taken together and each got a key ring.

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