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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.

Mario

The office is nice, but the power that comes with it is paramount. Ever since my boss Danny was put on mandatory leave for a) having yet another anxiety attack last week, and b) improper supervision of an employee who has been laundering money for the last two and a half years, I’ve savored my newly appointed Acting Recreation Director title. I’m playing it cool, like I’m unaffected by the temporary promotion. Internally, however, I’m relishing it all. First thing I did was to take the mayor’s advice and change the locks to my office door, just in case Danny got the inkling to sneak into the building to retrieve some files or pull information off of his computer. I also had Sandy take down all of Danny’s photos, awards, and knick-knacks and replace them with mine under the theory that I’ll be more efficient and effective if I’m working in a comfortable, familiar atmosphere. I hadn’t even thought of moving into Danny’s office considering that he might just be out for a few weeks at most, but the mayor insisted.

Surprisingly, Danny’s assistant, Diane, has been on her best behavior – greeting me in the mornings, bringing me coffee already flavored with hazelnut cream, and giving me the rundown on how Danny might handle certain situations. She probably thinks that I’ll be in a position to promote her soon or something; that’s the only explanation for her civility. But hey, whatever works. I appreciate the respect – especially from her because she’s the one person in the office who has never treated me with any sort of esteem.

“Alright, Diane. I’ll see you tomorrow. I have a meeting with one of the neighborhood associations tonight, so I’m just gonna stop and grab something to eat.”

“Oh, are you sure?” she asks. “I think I have a Lean Cuisine in the refrigerator.”

Well, she’s wrong about that one. She did have a Lean Cuisine in the refrigerator until I ate it last night as a snack once everyone went home for the day. “Oh, no thank you. I know I probably need the Lean Cuisine, but I’m in the mood for one of those chicken potpies at the Buena Beach Café. Cynthia has been bringing them home from work almost every night. I swear they must put heroin or something in them ‘cause I’m hooked.” She gives me the requisite deferential chuckle that oft follows the boss’s jokes, then slightly turns her body as a signal that our small talk is tapped out for the day.

“Alright, then. See you tomorrow.”

“See ya,” she sings.

It’s still bothering me, the fact that I care so much about how Diane perceives me. And it’s bothering me that it’s bothering me that I care so much about how Diane perceives me. Perhaps it’s because she’s the only one I know (besides Danny) who isn’t utterly captivated by me in some way. I know that sounds pretty narcissistic, but that’s how I feel. I don’t give a damn if everyone likes me, but I want everyone to respect me, and to value what I bring to the table. Perhaps my stint as the boss will give her an opportunity to see my magic close up, and I’ll be able to win her over.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. I’m talking crazy right now. She’s my subordinate, my assistant. I don’t give a damn what she thinks of me. My blood sugar must be low because I’m not thinking right. Let me get out of here – there’s a potpie with my name on it.

When I pull up to the café, I’m a little worried to see that I’m the only car in the back parking lot. My stomach and taste buds would hate to see this place close from a lack of customers. Then again, it is sort of an odd time at 3:30. The lunch crowds have been gone for a couple hours, and the afternoon coffee run bunch has probably just waned. Dinner and a movie couples will be here soon. I suppose they must not be doing too badly since they just hired my wife, Cynthia, here part-time; but you never know.

I turn off the ignition, about to be steps closer to a warm, succulent potpie when my phone rings. Glancing down at the display, I see it’s the mayor, so I pick up right away. “Hey there, Hanan.”

“What’s going on? You holding down the fort, or what?”

“Doing my best. What’s up?”

She gives a big sigh. “We need to hold off on tomorrow’s release of the Commission announcement and agenda.”

“Hold off?”

“Yes. I know it’s due to be posted by 5:00 p.m., but let’s delay it until about 7:00 or so.”

I don’t understand – she wants me to purposely delay the announcement? “Is there some sort of problem, because the agenda is all ready to go.”

“No problem. Well, hopefully not. We may need to make a slight adjustment on one of the items, and my office won’t know until possibly 5:15, 5:30. Perhaps even later.”

Okay. “Well, won’t that affect the Commission bylaws regarding posting of the agenda?

She tells me not to worry, that Danny gets it in late all the time. So I shrug and tell her that I’ll do whatever she wants – she’s the boss. Although technically, she isn’t. As an elected official, she doesn’t really serve in a supervising capacity; but she definitely pulls the strings of the City Manager and the department heads. My immediate supervisor now is a woman (with quite the reputation for her near militant assertiveness) I’ve only met once or twice in the time I’ve worked here. But I’ll be getting to know her better real soon when we meet later this week for a meeting with all the directors from the Department of Parks & Beaches. I’m not sure how she’ll feel about me in my new acting position since it was the mayor’s decision to do put me there, but I’ll play nice. I won’t pull out my “I’m chummy with the mayor” card unless she decides to get an attitude with me.

When I finally make it inside the café, it’s empty. There’s not even anyone behind the counter, ready to take my order. They perhaps are short staffed today because Cynthia wasn’t able to come in, opting to go to her mom’s birthday dinner (without me, of course) instead of working. I’m about to shout, “Hello,” when I hear some rustling and a soft giggle coming from the kitchen door, marked ‘Employees Only’. Normally, I’d just hang out a bit, perusing the selections, figuring out what I’ll add to my order for dessert. But leaving the house early without breakfast and having to skip lunch, I’m ravenous. So I walk over and peep inside the small window to the kitchen door.

I only catch the last split second of it, but I catch it – Chris with his tongue nearly three feet down Jen’s throat followed by a hearty slap on her ass, hence all the giggling. Somehow, I’m able to creep quickly over to the nearby bathroom door, as if I’d just exited, when the two of them leave the kitchen and return to their posts.

“Oh. Hey. Mario!” says Chris, going for pleasantly surprised rather than utterly shocked. “What’s up, man? Taking a late lunch?”

Chris knows he’s busted. Although he’s the co-owner of the café, his full-time job is as one of the Coordinators in the division I’m now supervising. Two weeks ago, it would have just been one colleague seeing another get over a bit. But catching him here while he’s still on the clock for the City – apron on and ready to serve – is clearly big trouble. On top of that, I just caught him making out with Jennifer, Danny’s teenage daughter? Forget it. This dude’s mine.

I’m gonna play it cool, though. “Yah, more or less. Got a meeting tonight with one of the neighborhood associations. Just thought I’d grab a potpie before heading over.”

“Oh, of course. Jen, can you get Danny a potpie?”

She obliges while completely ignoring me. I’m sure she’s just as irritated with my presence here as Chris, being that she sells me my weekly ration of weed. As user and seller, the two of us more or less had even footing with one another, neither one wanting to be found out by Danny or the City or anyone. But with this little piece of info I just picked up, I’ve totally got the upper hand, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

“Jen, this is Mario. He works with me at the City. He’s the one who’s taking your dad’s place right now.”

She doesn’t turn to greet me. “I know. We’ve met before.” She disappears, back into the kitchen. And once she’s gone, Chris comes from behind the counter, suddenly desperate.

“Look, man,” he says, hushed. “I’m, I’m sorry. I don’t usually do this. It’s just that Alice called, saying she couldn’t come in until 7:00, and you know Cynthia was…”

“It’s cool, man. No worries. I understand.” I’m about to go sit down to wait for my pie, but decide that I can’t let him off that easily. “Just don’t let it happen again, okay?”

“Oh no, no. Never. I can even put down personal time if you want me to. Or I can make up the time tomorrow. Just let me know. And the potpie’s on the house. Coffee too. Anything you want, okay?”

My coolness about the situation just makes him more uneasy and nervous. By the time I finish my potpie, he’s already arranged to have potpies delivered to the office for lunch for the rest of the week, along with one of Jen’s famous cupcakes and vanilla latte. And, he’s giving me all his leftover pastries from the morning and two carafes of coffee to take to the meeting tonight.

Power rocks.

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