They found Aubrey across the street sitting under a tree on the shore. She was composed and watched the sailboats float by.
“Are you ok?” Jonathan asked as he helped her up.
They sat on a nearby bench.
“Do you want to talk about it? Ask me something?”
She looked at him with her big puppy eyes. “Do you want me to stop being friends with Julio?”
His eyes narrowed. “Is that what–no! I would never ask you to do that. You two are innocent. I was just surprised and caught off guard when you told me who Julio was. I don’t know why, but somehow I never anticipated either of you knowing him. Kinda like I was hoping you’d just…know. It was stupid, and I’m sorry. If you want to end your friendship, that’s your business. But I would never ask you to do that for my own benefit.”
“I know, but is he going to keep making you upset? I don’t want to make you sad, daddy.”
“Aubrey, don’t do this. This isn’t a situation where you have to choose him or me. I’m not going to be upset about this anymore. I…”
“I was mostly upset with myself.” He sighed and lowered his head. “I kept all of this…our family, our history…I kept it from you because of me.” He hesitated for a moment. “I will go down in Pruett history as the failure. I lost our inheritance. I didn’t even have a son until now, of course. I didn’t want you two to see me like that. I thought you wouldn’t respect me if you knew what I did.”
“That’s so dumb, daddy,” Aubrey said. “You’re not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.”
He snorted. “No one makes mistakes on this scale.”
“It’s not like your murdered someone, daddy.”
“Yeah,” Maya chimed in. “No one can afford to make a mistake that huge.” She winked at him.
He was flabbergasted but relieved. All that energy he poured into keeping this secret and getting upset when the secret was comprised. All the fuss he made about losing their respect. They joked with him and said it was dumb. Amazing.
“So…that’s it? You’re not angry with me?”
“Why would we be?” Maya asked. “That was in the past…and like you said earlier, you learned from your mistakes and became a better person. That’s what matters, right?”
“Yeah,” Aubrey said. “No need to keep beating yourself up about it.”
He laughed with tears in his eyes. All their lives, he had been teaching them lessons and comforting them when they were sad. Now they were teaching and comforting him. He must have done a good job.
“You are the most amazing pair of young ladies ever! I love you both so much. You make me so proud!”
“So tell us about Viviana,” Maya said.
Jonathan felt so light and free. He always wanted to tell them about his favorite family members but was always afraid they would ask questions that would give way to more information he didn’t want to share.
“Viviana was my grandmother. My dad’s mom. She was the best grandma and taught me everything I know about cooking and mixing juice.”
Aubrey gasped. “That’s so sweet! You named it after her!”
“She was an amazing woman. Heh, we thought she would live forever.”
“Why?” Maya asked.
“She was a doctor and worked out a lot. I guess she was so healthy she lived a very long time. My dad was an old man when she died.”
“They were old at the same time? That must have been trippy,” Aubrey said.
“Yeah. Maybe it was. Her husband’s name was Brady. He died the night before my sisters were born, but his ghost used to visit us all the time. He was the heir for generation 7, but he used to be the spare.”
“What happened?” they both asked.
“My great-uncle, Owen, more or less abdicated the throne. I don’t remember the story exactly, but he found out he had some kids and wanted to be with them instead of trying to find a wife so he could be a proper heir.”
“Heirs have to get married?” Maya asked.
“That sounds like a lot of pressure,” she said.
“Yeah…I suppose. I remember my aunts saying my dad pressured me, but I was too young to really feel it. And he didn’t really bother me about dating anyone. Besides, when I met your mother all I wanted to do was marry her.”
“What about your parents?” Maya asked.
“My parents are Julian and Jeannette.” He turned toward Aubrey. “You have my mother’s eyes.”
“Wait,” Maya said. “All of your names begin with J! Was that on purpose?”
“Yep. They named us long before they even began dating.”
Both girls looked confused.
“They were best friends. My mom liked my dad, but he didn’t realize it for a while. She used to talk about their hypothetical family all the time hoping he would catch a clue.”
“Ugh! That’s so annoying and exhausting,” Maya said.
He laughed. “Yeah, from what my dad said, those two definitely had a time getting together.”
“Who do you look like?” Aubrey asked.
“More like my dad, but I have both of their features.”
“Do you miss them?”
“Well…sometimes I wonder what they would think of me and the restaurant and you guys.”
An appropriate moment of silence came as they ran out of questions. A car sped by, and the seagulls left to go to their resting place for the evening.
“Do you think…am I popular in school because people think I’m…important?”
He sighed. “Well…that’s possible, but I don’t think so. You’re very sweet, and you treat people well. People are attracted to that.”
She looked like she was thinking about it.
“Again, I’m sorry I wasn’t brave enough to tell you all of this before. You can ask me anything you want, ok? I won’t get mad.”
“Should we go home now?”
“Do you think we can go in the house?” Aubrey asked.
“No. If nothing’s been done with it since we left, it probably needs to be condemned.”
“Can I ask you something?” he said to Aubrey.
“Are you and Julio–”
“What? I’m just curious.”
“We’re just friends!”
“You don’t like him? Even just a little?”
She opened her mouth to answer, but no words came out. Jonathan and Maya looked at each other with a smirk on their faces.
“We’re just friends!”
“Ok, Aubrey.” He laughed and put his arm around her as they walked away. “If you ever decide to invite him over for dinner, we’ll be ok with that.”
“Fine. But we’re still just friends.”