Gabe and Clayton have a chat and the New Mexico youth tells his Nebraska buddy that he’s going to back off with Maddie. He’s very attracted to her, but he can see how much the two of them care about each other. He asks what music Maddie likes, or doesn’t, and Clayton teases her, saying they will be there all night if she gets started.
Gabe and Luis nodded, waving. “Thanks, man!” They chorused.
“We’d better get going,” Gabe said suddenly. “I hate to split, but we’ve got something to do for my mom. See you at dinner.” He got up, heading to his truck with Luis.
Maddie was puzzled by Gabe’s sudden departure. He didn’t even say goodbye to her. Frowning, she picked up the remnants of her meal and helped with the cleanup. Clayton made sure he was by her side the entire time, talking and joking. She soon regained her smiles and happy mood. They spent another hour on the torreón before Jose called it a day. Tonight, they would dine at his wife’s restaurant. He was very proud of her business.
“Best food in the county,” he bragged. “Maybe the whole state.”
Once they were all bathed and ready, they piled into the cars. The girls were dressed in brightly colored sundresses. The boys all wore Izod shirts with khakis, almost as if it were a uniform. A party atmosphere enlivened them. Even Claire smiled and laughed with the rest. They arrived at dusk. The Rancho was an original adobe building, which had been in that spot since the Spanish missionaries arrived.
“This was originally a mission church,” Jose told them. “Then everyone was killed by Indians. A few years later, Maria’s ancestors fixed it up and moved in. They started a small farm, which grew and grew. Now, it’s over a hundred acres. The restaurant sits in the middle of it. They supply all their own vegetables and fruit. The milk and cheese comes from our dairy. We even supply our own meat.”
The building was low, squat and sprawling. The smooth adobe walls were painted a light fawn. The sidewalk leading to the front door was made of flagstones. The door was thick oak, trimmed with strips of ornately crafted cast iron. Inside, they found tile floors and beautifully decked tables, graced with candles in cut-tin lanterns. Jose led them through the restaurant to the courtyard beyond. More like a plaza, this was easily half the size of a football field. The main building flanked the west side. The second kitchen building, separate from the main restaurant, stood to the south. Also made of adobe, it was painted a stark and glittering white.
Smiling waiters and waitresses, many of whom were in the church youth group, waited for them by a series of white clothed, wrought iron tables. The chairs were heavy wood with brightly colored cushions. Waiters helped the women with their chairs as the waitresses handed out menus and took drink orders.
The courtyard was ringed with brightly colored paper lanterns, suspended on wires, that danced in the light evening breeze. The plaza sloped gradually to a wide expanse of garden. It was lavishly landscaped with native plants, dotted with sculptures by local artists. Everywhere they looked, their eyes met old world charm. The waitresses were dressed in ruffly flamenco style dresses, with silk flowers in their hair. The men were dressed in black pants with white shirts and cummerbunds.