He hesitated. “By the way. There’s a woman—her name’s Camila. She’s opening a restaurant next door. I thought I should warn you. She stopped by yesterday.”
Fila didn’t know why his words left her feeling so cold. Perhaps it was the way he said them, his glance sliding away as his lips formed Camila’s name. Why was he so hesitant to mention her?
“I’ll see you at lunch.”
For one brief moment Fila thought he might step forward and kiss her again, or at least touch her arm. But he didn’t. He turned and left, instead.
She wished he’d given her that kiss.
“Did that order get done?” Luke asked when Ned found him in the barn.
“All taken care of.”
“You run to Mom for help?”
“Nope.” Ned loaded the cart attached to the small tractor with hay a bale at a time, stacking them up carefully so they wouldn’t tip on the bumpy ride to the cattle. He refused to let Luke goad him this morning.
“You ran to someone for help.”
“You through?” Ned turned on him.
“Not by a long shot. Don’t know what Dad was thinking, putting you in charge. I’m the one that oughta take over for Jake.”
“What makes you better than me?”
“I can do the whole job myself, for one thing.”
Here they went. It all came down to reading and writing, everywhere he turned. Did Luke think it didn’t burn him that he had to rely on Fila for help? That he couldn’t help her set up her Internet, or research which class to take before she opened her restaurant? He was hemmed in by his lack of ability every damn day. He didn’t need his little brother to pour salt in the wound.
“Take it up with Dad. I suggest you spell out exactly what your beef with me is, too. That’s bound to get him on your side.”
Luke turned away in disgust and Ned snorted. Yeah, he thought that’s how his brother would react. Given that Holt’s dyslexia was worse than his, Holt wouldn’t have a lot of sympathy for Luke’s feelings on the matter. Holt relied on Lisa to help him with the parts of running the ranch that required paperwork. He wouldn’t have an issue with Ned using Fila.
Or maybe he would.
Ned sighed. He figured his father would come around sooner or later about Fila as long as he stuck to his guns. Keeping the family together trumped everything in Holt’s book, even if he did strut and whine and bellow when he didn’t get his way. All he had to do was weather this particular storm and Holt would find something else to turn his attention to. After all, his second priority was getting his sons married and on the way to producing grandkids. Once he married Fila and they had a child, Holt would be putty in their hands.
As he trundled the load of hay out to the cattle, the problem of his dyslexia churned in his mind, though. He had a lot of years ahead of him. A lot of tasks that required reading. Using Fila to help was one way to skin that cat, but he didn’t like the taste that thought left in his mouth. A man shouldn’t be less than his wife; he knew that for a fact. She might not mind now. He knew Fila felt just as off-balance and uncertain in her new life as he felt when it came time to read. She’d get over that, though.
He’d never get over his dyslexia.
Despite himself, his mind leapt to the woman who’d tested him in grade school. Mrs. Martin, a gray-haired, determined woman who’d sat him down when the results came in and gave him the news in a no-nonsense manner.
“You can beat this, you know,” she’d stated firmly. “It’ll take work and lots of it, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t learn to read.”
In that moment he’d believed her, but when he went home with a packet full of paperwork for his folks, and his mother had described the special tutoring sessions he’d need to attend, his father had pitched a fit.
“No son of mine is going to no special classes. I know what that word means and there’s not a thing wrong with Ned’s brain. I won’t have the whole town talking about my son that way.” And he’d kept on going until even his mother gave up on the project.
Ned had been secretly relieved. He knew other kids who slipped out of class when the teaching assistants came to call for them. He knew how the rest of the kids in the classroom snickered and talked behind their backs. He got enough of that already.
But looking back, Ned wondered if he’d made a mistake. Could the problem have been fixed somehow?
Was it too late?
Once Ned was gone, Fila locked the door behind him and made a slow loop through the restaurant to really take it in. Without the crowd of friends in it, she noticed details she hadn’t seen before—the smooth, polished tables, the geometric designs on the walls, the gleam of the counter, the beautiful frame on the chalkboard waiting for her menu.
Her friends had done their best to create something beautiful for her and it nearly moved her to tears. Just a few months ago she hadn’t known any of them. Now they’d spent their free time and harnessed all their creativity to present something like this to her? She had to succeed—she couldn’t let them down. She tried to imagine how it would feel to run it but found that was beyond her powers.
Returning to her laptop, she tapped her fingers while trying to decide where to start. She wasn’t the whiz on a computer that all her friends seemed to be, but once she’d figured out how to use an Internet browser she’d quickly realized that research was something she thrived on. Today she decided to start with the basics. Typing how to start a restaurant into the search engine, she was rewarded with all kinds of sites discussing the topic. She opened a word processing program and began to build a list.
An hour and a half later, she was feeling overwhelmed, but she had managed to locate online courses for the food safety programs she needed and had a basic feel for the steps required to license her business.
Now she needed to plan a menu, so she could make a list of pots, pans, and utensils she’d need to stock her kitchen and to begin to outline an ingredients shopping plan. She knew how to plan a meal for a set number of diners, and how to plan for extras just in case, but she had no idea how to make a plan when she had no idea how many customers might come on a certain evening. What if she ran out? What if she made far too much? If she didn’t do it right, she’d be wasting Ned’s money, and it would take longer to earn enough to pay him back for everything he’d done.
When the knock came on the restaurant’s front door, Fila nearly jumped out of her skin. She’d been so busy trying to crack the problem, she’d forgotten where she was. On the positive side, that meant she felt comfortable enough here not to have a panic attack. On the negative side, her stomach was cramping severely now to make up for that.