Alicia’s son, Luis, may be suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, but he’s too young for a definitive answer. She’s struggling with his care, holding down a job, and going to school. All she wants is a chance to stand on her own two feet.
Dr. Raul Mendez lost everything at sixteen when the rest of his non-US-citizen family was deported. In spite of depression that has dogged his life, he’s managed to become a pediatrician with a specialty in childhood development. Alicia brings something special into his life, but their opposing points of view may keep them from ever finding love.
The petite woman standing by the child on the examining table turned.
The strong bones of her face, full lips, and dark eyes matched the structure of her body. Attractive. Not that he was looking for anyone right now.
“Are you Dr. Mendez?” she asked.
“Sí. And you are”—he checked the chart—“Alicia Fuentes.”
The boy on the table squirmed and let out a howl.
Raúl glanced back at the chart. No medical problem stood out, but the young woman had been to several doctors, including specialists at Stanford. Was it some type of Munchausen syndrome, or was there a legitimate illness?
“What seems to be the problem?” he asked.
“Luis is difficult.”
He was tempted to tell her all children were difficult, but the set of her jaw stopped him short. “In what way?” He leaned back against the counter, his interest piqued by what she might have to say. If the child wasn’t simply a fussy baby, it might be a chance to increase his behavioral development experience.
“He mixes up his days—sleeps during the day and wants to be up all night. He’s a fussy eater. I practically have to hand-feed him. He doesn’t seem to sit up well. And temper tantrums! I know all children have them, but his seem worse than other kids’. My grandmother says she’s never seen anything like it.” Snapping her mouth shut, she stared at him, as if defying him to tell her there was nothing wrong, that her child was normal.
In that instant, he knew there wasn’t anything normal about Luis.
Although he hadn’t seen a wedding ring, he asked the question anyway. “How is he with his father?”
“I’m a single mom.” Her chin went up. “He never sees his father.”
A too common answer. His heart crinkled with sadness for her and anger at the boy’s father. “He has no contact with his son?”
The finality in her voice warned him not to pursue the subject.
He ignored the warning.
“It must be very difficult for you, especially so young.”
“I’m eighteen.” She made her age sound as if she were in her mid-thirties.
He hid a smile. “The baby is twelve months, correct? What have the other doctors told you?”
“They don’t know what’s wrong. He’s too young for certain tests. They can’t help me.” Defeat crept into her words, and her shoulders slumped, but then she rallied and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m told you can.”
He hoped her confidence wasn’t misplaced. “Why don’t you take a seat, and I’ll take a look at your son?”
“Do you have children, Dr. Mendez?” She moved toward the chair but didn’t sit.
“Me? No. I’ve never been married.”
“Brothers and sisters?”
“Yes. Older brothers. Why do you ask?”
“It seems odd for a single man to be a pediatrician.”
“Like many of us, I come from a large, extended family. Lots of cousins. Lots of different problems—some the normal hazards of being a kid, some brought on by poverty. Giving kids a healthy start is a way to help our people.” He looked down at Luis and put his stethoscope in his ears. “Now let’s see what’s up with you, little man.”
Casey Dawes has lived a varied life–some by choice, some by circumstance. Her master’s degree in theater didn’t prepare her for anything practical, so she’s been a teacher, stage hand, secretary, database guru, manager in Corporate America, business coach, and writer.
With a few marriages, two sons, and three step-children, her personal life was a challenge when she met and married her current husband who has proved to be the love of her life. They reside in Montana where she quilts, writes, and coaches on the banks of the Clark Fork River. The couple has been adopted by two gently used cats.