A family of strangers…

Welcome to Sunday Sips.

I hope you enjoy this sample of Sultry Nights.

Teresa Castro’s twenty-fourth birthday celebration spiraled out of control when she faced off with her parents, Marta and Javier in a heated confrontation. Teresa’s heart fell into the pit of her stomach. Her parents, especially Marta, didn’t hide their displeasure at the young couple holding hands. Before Teresa could make the introductions, in rapid Spanish, Marta snapped, “Go to the den!”

Javier slammed the door causing Teresa to jump like a spooked cat. She didn’t pray for the best, just that this horrible unfolding mess would come to an end. She and Jonathan needed to seek out a quiet place where they could talk. No matter what her parents felt about their relationship, she had to make Jonathan believe she loved him and wanted to be with him. Even if it meant going against her parents.

“I knew you were up to something. How long have you been seeing him?” Marta spat in disgust.

“I have a name and it’s not him.” Jonathan said through clenched teeth, his caramel cheeks flushing a deep crimson.

“Then tell us your name. Because we don’t know anything about you.” Javier barked, frowning at Teresa.

Uncontrollable shivers took over Teresa’s body. Her lover and father were glaring at her. One in disbelief. The other in pure disappointment.

She wanted to die when Jonathan turned to her and everything that was once sweet and endearing about him was now bitter and uncaring. He didn’t respond to Javier. Instead, his cold, dark eyes shot daggers at Teresa. Head tilted, he stared at Teresa as if she were a stranger.

Teresa met Jonathan Ballard at the African American Art Museum. She had gone there that evening to see an exhibit featuring works by Afro-Latino artists. Concentrating on her studies in fashion design left little time for dating. So when the nerdy, yet cute Jonathan struck up a conversation about a painting by Cuban artist Cundo Bermúdez Teresa was admiring, the attention was flattering.

He followed her from painting to painting engaging in small talk. Jonathan seemed like a solid guy. Gainfully employed as an accountant, he was taking evening classes working on his MBA. Teresa never gave it a second thought when Jonathan asked for her number. By the end of summer she would be headed back to New York to start her new job. In the meantime, she didn’t think it would hurt to be friends and maybe go out on a few dates.

Jonathan’s sweet, caring disposition drew Teresa like a bee to nectar. Daily phone calls, meeting up for dinner throughout the week set the stage for the perfect romance. It didn’t take long for them to become a couple and fall hard and fast for each other. Teresa was careful to hide her new relationship from her parents. Since she could remember, her folks made it clear the expectation was for their children to date and marry within the Cuban community.

Teresa believed her parents’ expectation was ridiculous since the Cuban population in Philadelphia was minuscule. Not to mention that her parents on some level were being hypocritical. Her brothers Alonzo and Julio dated women of all ethnic backgrounds. When she pointed this out to her parents, she couldn’t believe her mother’s archaic response. “It’s different for you. You’re a woman, Teresa. Your brothers are being men. Trust me, they’ll settle down with someone like us.”

Teresa felt awful about her decision to keep Jonathan a secret from her family until she could get up the nerve to tell them they were dating. It did not make her feel any better when Jonathan took her home to meet his parents and siblings. When he asked about meeting her family, Teresa made up one excuse after another. Jonathan forced her hand when he accused her of not loving him.

Like always, Teresa reached out to Alonzo for support. She was relieved when he assured her, “Teresa, Mamá and Papá will understand.” Her brother convinced her that she was being silly and should not worry. “If you like him, they will love him.”

Teresa was snapped back to the present by Jonathan’s accusatory question. “You never told your parents about me?”

Horrified, Teresa squeezed Jonathan’s suddenly limp and cold hand though it was mid-August. When she looked into his eyes, her heart plunged further south. The adoration that once gazed at her was replaced by an emotion she couldn’t name. Was too afraid to name. She wanted to die when Jonathan’s hand fell from her grasp. To present themselves as an united front, she reached for him. A sharp, piercing pain in her chest stole her breath. Jonathan angrily yanked away.

Teresa’s trembling hand swiped away a tear. “I was afraid to,” she whispered, her eyes shifting to her parents. Neither Javier’s or Marta’s parental instincts kicked in to come to her rescue.

“Afraid of what, Teresa?”

Teresa felt a tiny measure of relief. At least Jonathan’s tone had softened a bit.

Before she could answer, Marta spat, “Because she knew we would never accept you or your kind.”

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