The story so far:
Hector narrates the story:
Hi, everyone. It was a beautiful, sunny Thursday afternoon in Bella Rosa. People were coming in The Pink Rug to get the famous pepperoni, cheese, and sausage pizza that I usually made.
This day was no exception. My girlfriend Raquelle and her older sister Vanessa came to the restaurant and sat at the famous pink bench Raquelle loved so much. They were ready to chow down.
As usual, I greeted them. "Hello, muchachitas." I grinned when I saw Raquelle.
"Oh, hello," Raquelle said with a grin while Vanessa waved to me. "We're here for your famous pizza."
I laughed. "I knew you were coming to chow down on it, mi bella Raquelita!" Then I noticed that she was wearing a pretty lavender sundress and pink sandals. She looked beautiful!
Vanessa caught me looking at Raquelle and grinned. "Hector, Raquelle felt like putting that on so she could impress you."
I raised an eyebrow. "Um, Vanessa, Raquelle usually doesn't dress pretty to impress anyone!" Then I told Raquelle that she looked beautiful.
"Thank you," replied Raquelle.
I laughed. Then I went behind the counter to start up another pizza. While I was doing that, Vanessa and Raquelle struck up a conversation.
Vanessa took Raquelle's left hand and stroked it. "Okay, hermanita, the reason why we came to The Pink Rug is because it isn't noisy or overcrowded, and the people are very friendly, especially your cute and understanding boyfriend! Plus they understand about your autism, don't they?"
Raquelle pretended to gasp. "Vanessa! You sound dramatic, chica!"
Vanessa smiled. "I'm trying hard not to be dramatic, Raquelita, but Mama and Daddy are helping me how to interact with someone who has autism more than ever before. For example, I have to be patient with you and Juan Carlos. I can't talk down to you both or accept you to be normal like me. I've been to a couple of events about autism with you and Mama, and they taught me more than what I knew."
"More and more people are getting diagnosed with autism now than ever before. Awareness is out in the open, but it can be done even more. I would want to work with someone who is autistic, because I have a lot of knowledge. But, Raquelita, I have to admit that I don't know everything about autism. I know I have to be sensitive to those who have autism. I don't want to end up like Gladis and Adela Lozano, that's for sure. I mean, Gladis's daughter Isabel is autistic, but Gladis sure ain't sensitive half the time with Isabel, and she's the mother! Jose Alexander, Isabel's father, is more patient and understanding. Patience and understanding is what someone needs to give to people with autism."
Raquelle rolled her eyes. "Believe me, I know about Gladis and Adela. Maybe they need to interact with autistic people in a better manner than they do. They need to be trained, Vanessita."
"They need to be much better trained, that's for sure, Raquelle. But Mama and Daddy went to an autism training for parents in Colombia three years ago, remember? Daddy actually knew about it before Mama did, but they chose to go. You, Juan Carlos, and I had the house to ourselves for a week, but Ondrea, Erinne, and Desiree came over to have pizza two days in a row! I thought they were great entertaining us with their skills!"
Raquelle laughed. "Ondrea referred herself as the Autistic Creative Eeyore by wearing an Eeyore shirt and pink capris, and Desiree showed us her drawings of circles, triangles, and girls' faces. Erinne hooted loudly like usual, but she did help Juan Carlos cook some taco salad."
Vanessa hooted even worse. "At that rate, I thought Erinne could cook better than Juan Carlos!" That made Raquelle laugh a little louder, but not too loud. Luckily, nobody noticed.
When the laughter died down, Vanessa went on. "Raquelle, I thank God that you are my beautiful autistic sister. I love you." She prepared herself for crying.
Raquelle did just that, but she smiled through her tears. "Thank you, Vanessa. Thank you." She got up and hugged Vanessa. It was clear that they loved each other very much despite their differences.
Luckily, I was done making the pizza by then and showed up at their table. "Hi! I am ready to serve you both!"
Raquelle and Vanessa looked in awe as they saw a beautiful and delicious pepperoni, cheese, and sausage pizza cut in 12 equal parts. I also planned on them having mozzarella sticks and Nestea Iced Tea, one of Raquelle's favorite drinks. (Jesenia, another worker at The Pink Rug and Paola's older sister, was going to bring the mozzarella sticks and the Nestea Iced Tea out in a minute.)
"Thanks, as always, for the great service, Hector," Raquelle said to me with a smile. "While you were making the food, Vanessa and I had a long talk about how to interact with someone who has autism." She leaned over and gave me a kiss on the lips.
I smiled back. It was important that she said that, because I heard the conversation between her and her sister. I knew it was important, because I've dealt with people who have autism, and I've learned how to interact with them. I still have more learning to do (thanks in partly to the conversation), but thank God I can say that autism is a part of my life, and it will continue to be until I depart from this earth.