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NINE
The tinkling of the bell from the automatic glass door opening caused Leticia to look up from her computer screen and a smile spread over her face as she declared, “Well good morning, Bryan,” her fingers wiggling in greeting. “Did you find flowers to give to your mamita?”

“I give Mama flowers,” Brian confirmed, tucking in slightly behind Elizabeth’s legs as he used his mother as a partial shield between himself and the friendly stranger.

“Very nice,” Leticia said, nodding. “And how are you today?” she asked of Beth. “You must be very special to have been given such a beautiful bouquet.”

“Yes, thank you,” Beth replied with a chuckle, “but I am feeling dirty and hungry. I will just take the suitcases up and then come down for breakfast.”

“The suitcases?”

“Yes. Joe said you were holding them for him?”

“Oh! Why yes. Of course. Perdóname,” Leticia added, unable to hide her surprise. “Would you like some help? It might prove very busy with two suitcases as well as Bryan.”

“No, no. Thank you. We’ll be fine. Brian likes rolling the smaller suitcase. Thank you so much,” she added, extending the handle of first the small case and then the large one. “Okay, honey, take the suitcase for Mommy please.”

“I do!” Brian declared, conforming to Beth’s instruction.

“Good job! Mommy’s little helper,” Beth said as she smiled toward Leticia before heading toward the elevator.

As soon as the elevator door opened Brian began to step forward causing a tall, white haired, splendidly sculpted middle-aged woman and her far more rounded companion to stop mid-step as they began to exit. The woman gasped slightly in surprise before saying, “Whoops, hang on, buddy,” as she looked down and smiled broadly at Brian.

“You need to wait please, Brian,” Beth declared to her son in gentle admonishment.

“No harm done,” the man replied, his voice tinged with the nasal twang of high corn country. “You helping your mama?” he asked with a broad smile.

“I help Mama!” Brian replied as he stood in the doorway and blocked the elevator’s exit.

“You need to step out of the way please, Brian,” Beth said, her eyebrows raised.

“I sorry,” Brian said. “I step out of way.”

“No problem, amigo,” the man said. “You have a great day, Brian,” as he waited for his companion to step off the elevator and then followed her.

“So sorry,” Beth said as she gently guided Brian in and then stepped onto the elevator.

“Oh goodness!” the woman replied, shaking her head. “No problem whatsoever. We have a grandson about Brian’s age. Please, think nothing of it.”

“Thank you!” beamed Beth. “You have a good day.”

 “You too,” the man said.

In the elevator Brian declared, “I push button!” which made Beth’s shoulders sag as she exhaled hard.

Beth heard the woman say to her companion, “It’s such a great age,” but didn’t hear the man’s reply as the doors closed.

“‘I push button’ please,” she gently remonstrated as she lifted Brian high, pointed with her finger to the number three and said, “Push three!” smiling as he pressed the button and, despite her fatigue, realized the older couple was right, three-years-old was a great age.