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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.

Sandy

I’m trying my hardest to act as normal as possible sitting here at my desk, but as hungover as I am right now, I’m not really even sure what normal looks like. I should have given up bottles of Boone’s Farm and Alize back in high school, but old habits die hard. Hopefully, I was able to get all of the chunks out of my shoes after puking in the parking lot. Twice. I’ve come into work plenty of times after partying too hard the night before. Last night, however, was no party. My lone goal was to drink until I passed out so I wouldn’t have to think about Mario anymore. As of this minute – 8:25 a.m. – I haven’t seen, spoken to, received a text or email, exchanged smoke signals, or partaken in any other sort of communication with the guy in 43 hours and 55 minutes, ever since he took off on some rendezvous with the mayor. Most of me wants to bust into City Hall and demand to know what’s going on, checking under the oval office (or whatever shape a mayor’s office is) for any signs of a reverse Monica Lewinsky maneuver.

But the 5% of me that’s sobering up says to play it cool and be patient – he’ll turn up sooner or later. And it’s then that I will confront him, threatening to go to his wife, to Danny, to Diane (who’ll get word to the entire office), and to the Buena Beach Sundial with a press release about our affair.

And as if on cue, here he comes, wearing my favorite tie, the shiny navy one that we once used as handcuffs. I’m sure he has a good explanation – he wouldn’t purposely ignore me. Not after the evening we spent on Monday as I helped him cope with Danny’s surprise return by giving him the best neck massage known to man along with a chilled stein of Hefeweizen before sending him home to his wife. We were scheduled to continue the spa session Tuesday at my place during lunch, but then he dismissed me for the mayor and then had the nerve to call Diane (and not me) to say he was going home sick for the remainder of the afternoon. The least he could have done was text me – I would have offered my bed for him to recuperate from whatever was ailing him and brought home a bowl of chicken soup from my favorite dive restaurant in nearby Long Beach. I’ve been known to have powers for nursing men back to health in the past; but I didn’t even get a chance with Mario, hearing again from Diane yesterday that he’d be out once again. I limited myself to two calls an hour in case Cynthia had taken control of his phone (and just once every hour between midnight and 6:00 a.m.); didn’t want to cause any suspicion. And, yes. I did do a couple of drive-bys last night, just checking to see if his car was out front. If it hadn’t been there, I swear I would have caught a case for trespassing at the mayor’s beachfront home (yes, I do have her address), looking for any evidence of Mario’s presence there.

“Mario…can I talk to you?” I say with both discreetness and urgency, hustling to make my way to him before he gets the chance to walk by me.

“Actually, Sandy. I can’t talk to you. In fact, I don’t really even want to speak to you for a while, alright? Give me a few days.”

I’m nearly speechless. “But, Mario…what’d I – ”

And he turns to me, his eyes narrowing in on mine. “Just shut up, and go away…okay?” he tells me through clenched teeth.

He walks away, no regrets to his movements.

I need a wall, a chair…something to hold on to before I pass out. Somehow, I get my feet to drag me back to my desk where I shamelessly start bawling. Quietly, but shamelessly, ruining equally my makeup and desk blotter as I bury my head on the desk. I can feel my body convulse as I try to find my breath. Hopefully, all this won’t make me throw up again.

I’m still at it ten minutes later, nearly oblivious to the workday that’s still carrying on without me, when I feel a warm hand on my shoulder. “Sandy?”

I slowly lift my head and look up to face Diane. Her reaction to me tells me how ghastly I must be. But quickly, her look of disgust switches to concern.

“Sweetie,” she says, as she kneels down and puts an arm around me. “What’s wrong?”

Sniffle.

“Is it…Mario?”

But…but, wait. How could she know? Were we that obvious? Has he been talking? I don’t understand. “Yes, but – ”

“Wow. I didn’t think you were this…close. I mean, I knew you cared about him.” She squeezes my shoulders.

“I love him,” I blurt out, perhaps even loudly enough for the person in the adjoining cubicle to hear.

“You love him?” Diane asks, hushed and filled with new concern. She takes a moment to sort things through mentally before saying, “Wait, wait. Sandy, you’re not sleeping with him or anything, are you?”

And it’s with that question that the embarrassment sets in. I’m such an idiot. What the heck was I thinking? It’s that stupid second bottle of Boone’s I finished off in the wee hours of the morning – it must just now be hitting me. I don’t even have to reply; seeing me here – still wreaking of alcohol, unkempt hair, mascara-stained cheeks – provides the answer.

After she takes a few minutes to let this all sink in and get the quick bullet points from me – how it started, since when, how often, does Cynthia know – it’s time for me to ask the questions. “So, Di. What were you talking about when you first came over and asked about Mario?”

“Well, I’d hate to be the one to break the news, but he’s been demoted.”

“What?” Again, I know I’m too loud.

“Yes, he’s being held responsible for the whole Commission debacle. You know, with the meeting notice and agenda going out too late. He was the Acting Director when it happened, so the mayor recommended his position be downgraded to a Coordinator I again.”

This doesn’t make sense. “Wait a minute. The mayor? That…that can’t be right.”

“I’m afraid it is. Danny called him at home yesterday and told him. I heard the whole thing.”

So, that’s it, then. It isn’t me.

It’s not me.

Mario’s just upset right now because of all this work drama. Yes, he was out of line for what he said to me this morning, but he’s just in a bad place. Under the circumstances, I can overlook his behavior. So for the first time in 43 hours and 55 minutes, I’m feeling a little better. Sure, I feel for Mario and I know he has to be incredibly distressed about his situation, but at least he’ll be able to cope with it eventually. He’ll bounce back. I know it.

I just wish I could help – what a better way to let him know how much I care about him than to step in and save the day. If only I could shift the blame, somehow. If I could give him some sort of alibi or redemptive excuse.

So I give my final sniffle for the day and wipe my eyes, deciding I’ll take up Diane on her offer to clean me up a bit. Then I’ll settle in and get started on Operation Restore Mario’s Position (aka Operation Make Mario Fall In Love With Me). Watch out.

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