Created by Diane Brown, Buena Beach is an online soap opera, giving up all the juicy details of some of the hottest guys and gals of Buena Beach, a small town in Southern California. Check back everyday for a new episode here on HelloBeautiful.com.
At 4:45 in the afternoon, I slam down the phone after my umpteenth call to my wife goes straight to voicemail. I’m sweating, shaking, because the light bulb in my head finally powered on at full wattage. Just moments ago, while reading an article about tonight’s Commission meeting, everything came together. So immediately, my instinct was to call Cynthia and tell her everything – about tonight’s vote and her recent appointment to the Commission, and how the mayor orchestrated this whole thing. Since she’s not answering her phone, the only thing I can think to do now is run.
“Mario,” calls Sandy as I try my best to dart out of the building while simultaneously searching my jacket pocket for keys. “Where are you going?”
“Commission meeting,” I yell over my shoulder, understanding the bewildered look on her face because I certainly won’t be welcomed at the meeting. It’s all my fault, supposedly, that tonight’s emergency meeting is even happening. Since I neglected to send out the meeting notice and agenda on time for the previous Commission meeting, a community group rallied together to complain, forcing the City to negate the results of all votes that occurred. Now the commissioners are meeting once again to hash out the exact same motions discussed during last month’s meeting. The exact same community members will, no doubt, deliver the exact same moving speeches that didn’t compel at least two-thirds of the commissioners to vote in their favor. The mayor will be propped up in the exact same front row seat she always selects, and she’ll give each of the commissioners exactly the same fake smile she paints on whenever there’s a camera in the room. There’s only one variable that won’t be exactly the same.
My wife, Cynthia.
As I pull out of my spot in the parking lot, I see Sandy hurry outside, trying to catch me to make sense of things. I’ll have to explain later – no time to waste now, not even with a quick call to her from my mobile phone. I absolutely have to make it to that Commission meeting and talk to Cynthia before they get to the second item on the agenda.
You see, the one thing that no one else knows besides Sandy is that I was specifically told to delay the release of that meeting notice. That’s right, the mayor absolutely ordered me to hold off on sending it out. At the time, it didn’t seem like such a big deal, but I had no idea of the implications – chalk it up to inexperience. Point is, I was used. What was it that Lee Harvey Oswald said…I’m a patsy? Well, that’s me.
By the time I find a (slightly illegal) parking space and utter a quick prayer asking that my car not be towed, I stumble into the meeting at City Hall from the back door, about six minutes in. Cynthia is there, looking quite stunning among the other frumpy, scholarly, and elderly bunch that composes the Commission. It’s her first meeting so she looks much more interested in the happenings than the more seasoned members.
The place is not all that crowded, but the aforementioned community members are clearly present, taking up the bulk of the front and center area of public seats. I become one of the other attendees, scattered around in ones or twos in the room; however, I try to keep out of sight from the mayor, Danny, and his boss, who I respectfully refer to as Ms. Hourglass (thick in all the right places).
Sorry – now isn’t the time to be crass. I need to focus; figure out a way to get Cynthia’s attention. First, I take my time stepping quietly down the aisle towards my seat, hoping that she’ll notice me. She doesn’t. So then I try a mad barrage of text messages, hoping she’s strategically placed her phone right behind her name placard, out of the audience’s view. No response.
More desperate, I borrow a piece of paper from a nearby attendee and print out in large, bold letters “Hallway” with an arrow pointing to the left. But her focus isn’t going anywhere near the audience.
And then I say to myself, what the heck?, and rise to my feet, heading straight to the floor before my typically over-analytical mind has a chance to stop me. I guess this is what it feels like to act from the heart.
“Well, look who’s joined us?” I hear from the mayor as I interrupt the proceedings with my bold presence on the floor alone.
Then, I hear another familiar voice. “Mario, what are you doing?” It’s Danny.
I have no qualms about ignoring both of them. “Cynthia, can I talk to you for a second?”
The silence and the stares are heavy, all eyes on Cynthia who looks more terrified than she did when I took her on one of the roller coasters at Six Flags back when we were dating. For a second, it looks as if she’s going to tell me to go away or pretend like she doesn’t know who I am; but after her initial hesitation, she picks up her purse and stands, politely excusing herself as she makes her way out. Her smile instantly disintegrates once we make it out the side door for some privacy.
“Mario, what the heck are you doing?”
I try to hold her hands as a sign of my coming in peace, but she pushes me instead. “Cyn, I’m sorry. Just…just hear me out.”
“Mario, I’m so embarrassed. This is my first meeting – what’s the mayor gonna think?”
Just hearing her worry about the mayor’s response makes me want to choke that woman, sitting out there all smug in her chair. “That’s what I want to talk to you about. The mayor. This whole thing – it’s all a set up.”
Cynthia shakes her head. “Mario, what are you talking about? Set up for what?”
“The item that you all are about to discuss on the agenda is the sale of the property that used to be owned by the Sealis family.”
She tells me that she knows this; that she spent the whole day doing research on all the agenda items so she’d be well informed. And that she was very familiar with the property because it’s the area that borders the southwest end of the auto dealerships her parents own; that her parents have been angry for years after the City acquired the property, leaving it at near blighted conditions.
“Right,” I tell her. “So those commissioners who voted last time for the City to keep the property want to renovate the home on the land and open it as a museum or something and make a profit.”
“Yah, but the mayor told me that was a stupid idea. Who wants to go to a museum celebrating a family of pedophiles and cocaine smugglers? And she said that museums are financial burdens that drain cities. Besides, if the property is put up for sale, mommy and daddy can buy it. They’re so interested in opening a Honda dealership.”
I’m sure my smile’s a bit menacing, but I just can’t help but gloat about being right on. “Exactly. The mayor, I’m sure, knows this. She’s cunning like that. She used me to get to you to put you on the Commission in order for you to vote in favor of selling the property.” I nod, waiting for her light bulb to turn on, too.
But, “Dude, you’re crazy. I mean, you’ve really lost it. I know you’ve been all upset because of your job and everything, but don’t take it out on Hanan because you screwed up.”
Oh, so she’s so buddy-buddy with the mayor now that they’re on a first-name basis? Then again, I was on a first name basis with her just a few weeks ago, before she shanked me and left me to bleed all over the place. “Don’t you get it? She asked me to delay the release of the agenda so that the vote could be repealed due to a breach in following Commission policies and procedures. She found a way to get Danny out temporarily so she could have me do her dirty work, and then she used me again to get to you.”
“No really, Cyn. Just hear me out. You have to vote against selling the property.”
She laughs at this. “Mario, my parents already hate you. How do you think they’d feel if they knew you were trying to thwart their plans for launching another dealership? Besides, why would the mayor care either way? What’s the big deal to her?”
I smile again, realizing that I left out this key piece of information that will win her over. “Well, since the Sealis family basically developed Buena Beach, their home on the property was given historical status. Really, the City could care less about the place given the issues with the last Sealis generation. But it takes an amendment in the City Charter to sell any City property deemed historical. So, a vote by this Commission to sell the property would basically force the City Council to open up the Charter for an amendment.”
“And that’s what Hanan wants – she’s been working with her rich pals to push for allowing a mayor to serve three consecutive terms in office. The current City Charter only allows two terms. What I’d heard when I was still in her circle was that her buddies would only push the whole three-term agenda if an opportunity ever came up to amend the City Charter for something else.”
I wait for it to sink in, but she’s still scowling at me. “Look, Mario. I’m happy that you’ve solved your little Scooby-Doo mystery and all, but I really don’t care about anything you have to say right now. You’ve been sulking and treating me like crap the last two weeks. I’m sorry your life sucks right now, but you don’t have to take it out on me – you should support me. You should support my family.”
My heart feels like it’s dropped to my stomach as I take in her words. Is this karma?
“You should say ‘hi’ to me when I get home from work. You should tell me how good I look when I put on a negligee for you. You should eat every last bit of spaghetti and meatballs I make for you. You should have sex with me at least twice a week.” She grows louder with each demand.
“Okay, okay,” I say, getting near enough to take her by one arm. “I’m sorry, Cynthia. I’ve been a real ass, I know. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Everything okay out here?” Mayor Hanan pops her head out from one of the lobby doors, flashing us with one of her smiles, which works its magic on Cynthia who untangles herself from my light grasp.
“Oh, um. We’re fine. Just a little family emergency,” she says with a giggle.
“Well, you’d better come back inside, Cynthia. The group’s getting ready to vote, and you can’t very well miss your first vote.”
“No, of course not.” She doesn’t say anything to me as she leaves to rejoin the meeting, Hanan holding the door for her. Once Cynthia enters, her royal highness turns back to me and sticks out her tongue. Damn, where is the press when you need them?
They aren’t ready to vote on the second agenda item, the Sealis property, until nearly an hour and a half later, thanks to the steady line of community members with public comment and a lively discussion about the options for the property, whether retained by the City or sold.
I can hardly stay seated when the vote is finally called to question. Honestly, I gain nothing if the motion fails to pass; except, that is, a small but symbolic victory over the mayor. And symbolic for my relationship as well – Cyn is sort of making a mighty statement with her vote. Since, in all honesty, she has no business being on the Commission, her vote really isn’t about the Sealis property. No, it’s simply a decision between me and the mayor. Or even a decision between me and her parents. Whatever the case, her yea or nay will speak volumes.
And so here it is – time for her vote. I don’t even care what the overall outcome is – I just want to know how she’s going to weigh in.
Once the vote is registered, I look up at the screen to find the digital ‘thumb up’ or thumb down next to her name. Sighing at the result, I walk out for some air, wiping the perspiration from my head.
My car hasn’t been towed, but I do find a ticket on the window. Well, makes sense. Along with Cynthia’s decision, the parking ticket is the cherry on top of yet another crap of a day.
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